Around the World in Eight Million Years: Historical Biogeography and Evolution of the Spray Zone Spider Amaurobioides (Araneae: Anyphaenidae)
Closely related organisms with transoceanic distributions have long been the focus of historical biogeography, prompting the question of whether long-distance dispersal, or tectonic-driven vicariance shaped their current distribution. Regarding the Southern Hemisphere continents, this question deals with the break-up of the Gondwanan landmass, which has also affected global wind and oceanic current patterns since the Miocene. With the advent of phylogenetic node age estimation and parametric bioinformatic advances, researchers have been able to disentangle historical evolutionary processes of taxa with greater accuracy. In this study, we used the coastal spider genus Amaurobioides to investigate the historical biogeographical and evolutionary processes that shaped the modern-day distribution of species of this exceptional genus of spiders. As the only genus of the subfamily Amaurobioidinae found on three Southern Hemisphere continents, its distribution is well-suited to study in the context of Gondwanic vicariance versus long-distance, transoceanic dispersal. Ancestral species of the genus Amaurobioides appear to have undergone several long-distance dispersal events followed by successful establishments and speciation, starting from the mid-Miocene through to the Pleistocene. The most recent common ancestor of all present-day Amaurobioides species is estimated to have originated in Africa after arriving from South America during the Miocene. From Africa the subsequent dispersals are likely to have taken place predominantly in an eastward direction. The long-distance dispersal events by Amaurobioides mostly involved transoceanic crossings, which we propose occurred by rafting, aided by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the West Wind Drift.