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Title: Fossils constrain biogeographical history in a clade of flattened spiders with transcontinental distribution
Abstract Aim

Fossil data may be crucial to infer biogeographical history, especially in taxa with tropical trans‐Pacific distributions. Here, we use extinct and extant trochanteriid flattened spiders to test hypotheses that could explain its trans‐Pacific disjunct distribution, including a Boreotropical origin with a North Atlantic dispersal, an African origin with South Atlantic dispersal and an Eurasian origin with Bering Bridge route.




Trochanteriidae,PlatorDoliomalusVectius(PDV) clade.


MicroCT was used to collect morphological data from an undescribed Baltic amber fossil. These data were used with additional fossils and extant species in a total‐evidence, tip‐dated phylogenetic analysis. We tested different scenarios using constrained dispersal matrices in a Bayesian approach. An analysis with fossils pruned was also performed to explore how lack of fossil data might impact inferences of biogeographical process.


The phylogenetic analyses allowed us to place the new fossil in the genusPlator. Analyses without fossils suggest an African origin with a dispersal to Asia from India and a South Atlantic dispersal to South America. When fossils are included, hypothesis‐testing rejects this scenario and equally supports a Boreotropical and an Afro‐European origin with a South Atlantic route and a dispersal to Asia from Europe.

Main conclusions

Biogeographical inferences of disjunctly distributed taxa should be interpreted with caution when fossils are not included. Although one alternative hypothesis was not completely rejected, results show that the Boreotropical hypothesis for the PDV clade could be a robust explanation for its actual distribution. This hypothesis is mostly overlooked in animal taxa and rigorous tests with other taxa with similar distributions may reveal that a Boreotropical origin is common. We discuss methodological approaches that could improve biogeographical tests using fossils as terminals.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Biogeography
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 3032-3046
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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