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Frontiers of Biogeography

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Long-distance dispersal in amphibians


Although the distribution patterns of major amphibian lineages are mainly explained by a Pangean origin with subsequent vicariant diversification, dispersal events have exerted a strong influence on present-day distributions. Long-distance dispersal (LDD) involves movements outside the standard geographic limits and outside the genetic neighbourhood area of individuals. Although considered ‘rare’, LDD is disproportionately important to amphibian populations, species and communities. To understand the role of LDD in shaping current biogeographic patterns in these tetrapods, we reviewed the cases reported in the literature. A systematic bibliographic search was performed to obtain information on how many studies have dealt with LDD in amphibians, which methods they used, which taxa and distances were involved, and when/where events had apparently occurred. In 41 studies, we recovered at least 90 LDD events (3 active, 87 passive) involving at least 56 extant species and 38 genera. Most events (73) involved the colonization of islands, with rafting being suggested as the most conceivable means of overwater passive dispersal for these vertebrates. In this review, we show that LDD events have played an important role in shaping current amphibian biogeographic patterns, especially the occurrence of disjunct distributions and the colonization of islands.

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