Disjunctions in the Diptera (Insecta) fauna of the Mediterranean Province and southern Africa and a discussion of biogeographical considerations

Publication Year:

TThis paper explores disjunctions in the Diptera fauna of the Mediterranean Province and southern Africa, drawing from eight families of Diptera, the more ancient Psychodidae and Vermileonidae, and the more recent Acroceridae, Asilidae, Bombyliidae, Dolichopodidae, Pipunculidae and Sciomyzidae. Information from recent published revisions is geo-referenced and plotted onto maps using GIS software. These distribution patterns are interpreted and probable means and routes of dispersal between the two regions are discussed. The concept of an Afrotropical sub-Saharan boundary is outlined and it is argued that although the vast, arid and virtually abiotic Sahara acts as a barrier to dispersal today, relict floral and faunal populations of Mediterranean provincial origin still occur on the Hoggar and Tibesti Mountains of the central Sahara, indicating that the aridification of the Sahara is a very recent event. The presence of extensive palaeolakes formerly covering ca 10% of the present-day Sahara is regarded as evidence in support of this hypothesis. These lakes and their associated catchments, situated in basins between the central Saharan mountains, could clearly have acted as a humid route of dispersal as recently as 4000 BP, when these lakes began to recede, and this route is here regarded as a “central high Africa corridor”; a filter-bridge between the Mediterranean Province and southern Africa. Examples of Mediterranean provincial species of Ephydridae and the muscid genus Lispe Latreille, 1796, occurring as far south as the Aïr Massif in northern Niger are cited as examples of relict montane Diptera of Mediterranean provincial origin in the southern Hoggar Mountains; these groups being associated with the margins of standing water. Balinsky's (1962) concept of an “arid corridor” is also re-examined, using examples from the larger, less mobile Diptera, and it is concluded that such a pattern may not be the result of aridity, but represent an “eastern high Africa corridor”, broadly corresponding to the “African Superswell”. Other perceived distribution pathways between the Holarctic and Afrotropical Regions are mapped. Anemochore dispersal is considered, and the extent of the Afrotropical Region is discussed. Mediterranean tectonic evolution on both a globe of constant size and on a smaller Jurassic globe is also considered. It is concluded that if all the transitional zones between the zoogeographical regions are to be given more-or-less equivalent treatment, we must avoid setting boundaries based on earlier faunal distributions. For this reason the current boundary between the Palaearctic and Afrotropical Regions, arbitrary as it is, should be retained, despite evidence suggesting recent continuity between sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, corresponding broadly to the African and Arabian lithospheric plates.

Keywords: biogeography, disjunctions, African superswell, drought corridor, Diptera, Africa.

Publication Title:

Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa

Item Type:
Journal Article

EIS custom tag descriptions