Co-evolution assists geographic dispersal: the case of Madagascar

Type Article
Date 2022-09
Language English
Author(s) Génin FabienORCID1, Mazza Paul P.A.2, Pellen Romain1, Rabineau MarinaORCID5, Aslanian DanielORCID3, Masters Judith CORCID1, 4
Affiliation(s) 1 : African Primate Initiative for Ecology and Speciation (APIES) and Africa Earth Observatory Network (AEON), Earth Stewardship Science Research Institute, Nelson Mandela University , Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) , South Africa
2 : Department of Earth Sciences, University of Florence , via La Pira, Florence , Italy
3 : CNRS, Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploration de la Mer (IFREMER ), UMR 6538 Geo-Ocean, IUEM, Univ Brest, Plouzané , France
4 : Department of Botany & Zoology, Stellenbosch University , Stellenbosch , South Africa
5 : CNRS, Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploration de la Mer (IFREMER ), UMR 6538 Geo-Ocean, IUEM, Univ Brest, Plouzané , France
Source Biological Journal Of The Linnean Society (0024-4066) (Oxford University Press (OUP)), 2022-09 , Vol. 137 , N. 2 , P. 163-182
DOI 10.1093/biolinnean/blac090
WOS© Times Cited 6
Keyword(s) anachronism, biomes, climax vegetation, grassland, niche construction, land bridges, pollination, seed dispersal

Interspecific associations may limit the dispersal of individual species, but may also facilitate it when entire co-evolved systems expand their geographic ranges. We tested the recent proposal that episodic land bridges linked Africa and Madagascar at three stages during the Cenozoic by comparing divergence estimates of Madagascar’s angiosperm taxa with their dispersal mechanisms. Plants that rely on gravity for seed dispersal indicate at least two episodes of land connection between Africa and Madagascar, in the Early Palaeocene and Early Oligocene. Seed dispersal by strepsirrhine primates possibly evolved in the Palaeocene, with the divergence of at least one endemic Malagasy angiosperm genus, Burasaia (Menispermaceae). This genus may have facilitated the lemur colonization of Madagascar. Frugivory, nectarivory and gummivory probably generalized in the Oligocene, with the co-evolution of modern lemurs and at least 10 new Malagasy angiosperm families. In the Late Miocene, more angiosperms were probably brought from Africa by birds via a discontinuous land connection, and radiated on Madagascar in diffuse association with birds (asities) and dwarf nocturnal lemurs (cheirogaleids). During the same connective episode, Madagascar was probably colonized by hippopotamuses, which both followed and re-seeded a variety of plants, forming the grassy Uapaca ‘tapia’ forest and ericoid ‘savoka’ thicket.

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