Historical biogeography of marine ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii) of the Southwest Pacific : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Evolutionary Ecology at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand

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Current environmental and anthropogenic pressures are driving significant biodiversity loss and range shifts in marine environments. Understanding how biodiversity is generated and how it responded to past environmental changes is fundamental to inform future management strategies for marine resources. As the largest ubiquitous taxonomic group among marine vertebrates, ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii) represent the best model to understand the generation of biodiversity and the processes that shaped contemporary geographic patterns in the sea. In this sense, centers of marine endemism are of evolutionary value as they translate evolutionary and ecological mechanisms that drive biodiversity dynamics. In the Pacific Ocean, endemism centers for marine fishes are mainly located in remote oceanic islands at the periphery of the tropical West Pacific which harbors the highest levels of biodiversity. Biogeographic research suggests that marine fish endemism in the oceanic islands of the Central Pacific originated via multiple independent jump-dispersal colonization events, and that the islands have acted as sources of new unique biodiversity. However, as the evolutionary setting starts to be revealed for marine fish endemism in the Pacific, processes that generate and maintain biodiversity in other peripheral islands remain unknown. My thesis aims to fill this gap by studying the origin, evolution, and processes that have shaped endemism and biodiversity of marine fishes in the Southwest Pacific. I examined the historical biogeography of the region´s marine fish fauna using open-access molecular data to infer evolutionary histories, and geographic distribution information to assess spatial patterns of endemism and biodiversity. Data were analyzed across three research projects based on time-calibrated phylogenies, probabilistic biogeographic modeling, and statistical analysis of phylogenetic measures of endemism and biodiversity. My results confirm the role of the subtropical islands of the Southwest Pacific as sources of new unique biodiversity, identify mainland Australia as the major source of endemic lineages, highlight the significance of jump-dispersal and vicariance in shaping endemism patterns, and reveal that the processes shaping patterns of endemism and biodiversity differ at local scales. My thesis contributes to the understanding of unique contemporary biogeographic patterns in the marine fish fauna of the Southwest Pacific.
Osteichthyes, Oceania, Geographical distribution, Evolution, Phylogeny, Molecular aspects, biodiversity, biogeography, endemism, evolution, marine ray-finned fishes, molecular phylogenetics, Southwest Pacific