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Open Access Research article

When Indian crabs were not yet Asian - biogeographic evidence for Eocene proximity of India and Southeast Asia

Sebastian Klaus1*, Christoph D Schubart2, Bruno Streit1 and Markus Pfenninger13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ecology and Evolution, Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

2 Biologie 1, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany

3 Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:287  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-287

Published: 17 September 2010

Abstract

Background

The faunal and floral relationship of northward-drifting India with its neighboring continents is of general biogeographic interest as an important driver of regional biodiversity. However, direct biogeographic connectivity of India and Southeast Asia during the Cenozoic remains largely unexplored. We investigate timing, direction and mechanisms of faunal exchange between India and Southeast Asia, based on a molecular phylogeny, molecular clock-derived time estimates and biogeographic reconstructions of the Asian freshwater crab family Gecarcinucidae.

Results

Although the Gecarcinucidae are not an element of an ancient Gondwana fauna, their subfamily Gecarcinucinae, and probably also the Liotelphusinae, evolved on the Indian Subcontinent and subsequently dispersed to Southeast Asia. Estimated by a model testing approach, this dispersal event took place during the Middle Eocene, and thus before the final collision of India and the Tibet-part of Eurasia.

Conclusions

We postulate that the India and Southeast Asia were close enough for exchange of freshwater organisms during the Middle Eocene, before the final Indian-Eurasian collision. Our data support geological models that assume the Indian plate having tracked along Southeast Asia during its move northwards.