Biogeography of the Caribbean
A Short Note


     Most of the species within the Gobiosoma are found in the Caribbean region, an area with a complex geologic history. If the ancestors of Gobiosoma came from the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean regions, they would most likely have traveled with the North and South American plates when the Atlantic Ocean was forming. This assumes that the ancestors were basically benthic species with short larval stages which would have restricted their dispersal across the Atlantic to their present locations. Past studies by Birdsong et al. (1988), along with findings by Van Tassell 1998 support a Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic origin for the group.

     Their past evolutionary history in the Americas would have been influenced by a number of vicariant events such as 1) the movement of the Caribbean plate eastward into the Atlantic; 2) the formation of the Caribbean island systems and; 3) the biolide impact near the present Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago (Hedged, 1996). The separation of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans with the formation of Central America, the resultant changes in oceanic circulation patterns, and the formation of coral reefs in the Caribbean further divided the species and provided additional niches for rapid evolution of species. Rapid evolution of species within the group is particularly evident among the species in the Elacatinus complex. The 13 species within this genus (as define by Van Tassell 1998) all exhibit very similar color patterns and many readily hybridize in the aquarium.

Additional readings:

Hedges, S.B. 1982. Caribbean biogeography: Implication of recent plate tectonic studies. Syst. Zool. 31(4): 518-522.

Hedges, S.B., Hass, C.A. and L.R. Maxson. 1994. Reply: Towards a biogeography of the Caribbean. Cladistics 10: 43-55.

Hedges, S.B. 1996. Historical biogeography of the West Indian vertebrates. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 27: 163-196.

Page, R.D. and C. Lydeard. 1994. Towards a cladistic biogeography of the Caribbean. Cladistics 10: 21-41.


Site and photos copyright © 2000 GRIA