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Renner, Susanne S. (2004): Plant dispersal across the tropical Atlantic by wind and sea currents. In: International journal of plant sciences, Vol. 165, No. 4: S23-S33 [PDF, 189kB]


This review brings together evidence on the monophyly and ages of angiosperm lineages ranging across the tropical Atlantic with data on the direction, strength, and speed of sea currents and wind jets across that ocean. Mainly for pragmatic reasons (data availability), the focus is on genera, which introduces a rank-based constraint into the analysis. However, trans-Atlantic disjunctions at the genus level seemed more likely to be attributable to long-distance dispersal than those involving families or species; family-level disjunctions often may date back to the breakup of Africa and South America, and species-level disjunctions often may be anthropogenic. At least 110 genera (listed in this article) contain species on both sides of the tropical Atlantic. Molecular phylogenies and age estimates from molecular clocks are available for 11 disjunct genera, tribes, and species. Inferred directions and modes of dispersal can be related parsimoniously to water currents between Africa and South America and to exceptional westerly winds blowing from northeastern Brazil to northwest Africa. Based on diaspore morphology and inferred dispersal biology in the 110 genera, trans-Atlantic dispersal by water (in both directions) appears more common than dispersal by wind or on birds. Wind dispersal appears to have occurred in the direction from South America to West Africa but rarely in the opposite direction.

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