Challenging dogma concerning biogeographic patterns of antarctica and the Southern Ocean

Kenneth M. Halanych, Andrew R. Mahon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Antarctica is enormous, cold, remote, and particularly sensitive to climate change. Most biological research below 60°S has focused on the isolated nature of the biota and how organisms have adapted to the cold and ice. However, biogeographic patterns in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, and the processes explaining how those patterns came about, still await adequate explanation. Both terrestrial and marine organisms have been influenced by climatic change (e.g., glaciation), physical phenomena (e.g., oceanic currents), and/or potential barriers to gene flow (e.g., steep thermal gradients). Whereas the Antarctic region contains diverse and complex marine communities, terrestrial systems tend to be comparatively simple with limited diversity. Here, we challenge the current dogma used to explain the diversity and biogeographic patterns present in the Antarctic. We assert that relatively modern processes within the last few million years, rather than geo-logical events that occurred in the Eocene and Miocene, account for present patterns of biodiversity in the region. Additionally, reproductive life history stages appear to have little influence in structuring genetic patterns in the Antarctic, as currents and glacial patterns are noted to be more important drivers of organismal patterns of distribution. Finally, we highlight the need for additional sampling, high-throughput genomic approaches, and broad, multinational cooperation for addressing outstanding questions of Antarctic biogeography and biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-378
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
StatePublished - Nov 2 2018


  • biodiversity
  • circumpolar
  • glaciation
  • marine
  • phylogeography
  • terrestrial


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