Not drowning, (hand)waving? Molecular phylogenetics, biogeography and evolutionary tempo of the 'Gondwanan' midge Stictocladius Edwards (Diptera: Chironomidae)

Matt Krosch*, Peter S. Cranston

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    29 Citations (Scopus)


    Many insect clades, especially within the Diptera (true flies), have been considered classically 'Gondwanan', with an inference that distributions derive from vicariance of the southern continents. Assessing the role that vicariance has played in the evolution of austral taxa requires testing the location and tempo of diversification and speciation against the well-established predictions of fragmentation of the ancient super-continent. Several early (anecdotal) hypotheses that current austral distributions originate from the breakup of Gondwana derive from studies of taxa within the family Chironomidae (non-biting midges). With the advent of molecular phylogenetics and biogeographic analytical software, these studies have been revisited and expanded to test such conclusions better. Here we studied the midge genus Stictocladius Edwards, from the subfamily Orthocladiinae, which contains austral-distributed clades that match vicariance-based expectations. We resolve several issues of systematic relationships among morphological species and reveal cryptic diversity within many taxa. Time-calibrated phylogenetic relationships among taxa accorded partially with the predicted tempo from geology. For these apparently vagile insects, vicariance-dated patterns persist for South America and Australia. However, as often found, divergence time estimates for New Zealand at c. 50. mya post-date separation of Zealandia from Antarctica and the remainder of Gondwana, but predate the proposed Oligocene 'drowning' of these islands. We detail other such 'anomalous' dates and suggest a single common explanation rather than stochastic processes. This could involve synchronous establishment following recovery from 'drowning' and/or deleteriously warming associated with the mid-Eocene climatic optimum (hence 'waving', which refers to cycles of drowning events) plus new availability of topography providing of cool running waters, or all these factors in combination. Alternatively a vicariance explanation remains available, given the uncertain duration of connectivity of Zealandia to Australia-Antarctic-South America via the Lord Howe and Norfolk ridges into the Eocene.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)595-603
    Number of pages9
    JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


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