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Patterns and processes in reef fish diversity


A central aim of ecology is to explain the heterogeneous distribution of biodiversity on earth. As expectations of diversity loss grow1,2,3,4,5, this understanding is also critical for effective management and conservation. Although explanations for biodiversity patterns are still a matter for intense debate5, they have often been considered to be scale-dependent6,7. At large geographical scales, biogeographers have suggested that variation in species richness results from factors such as area, temperature, environmental stability, and geological processes, among many others5,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14. From the species pools generated by these large-scale processes, community ecologists have suggested that local-scale assembly of communities is achieved through processes such as competition, predation, recruitment, disturbances and immigration5,6,7,8,15,16. Here we analyse hypotheses on speciation and dispersal for reef fish from the Indian and Pacific oceans and show how dispersal from a major centre of origination can simultaneously account for both large-scale gradients in species richness and the structure of local communities.

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Figure 1: Geographical patterns in reef fish biodiversity in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Figure 2: Geographical pattern of reef fish endemism in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Figure 3: Pairwise comparisons of species richness, pelagic larval duration and distance from the Indonesian and Philippine region.
Figure 4: Contribution of IPR and endemic species to local reef fish assemblages in the Indian and Pacific oceans.


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We thank R. H. Karlson, J. Lovett-Doust, F. Zapata, J. Ciborowski and D. Hogan for discussion and comments. The staff at the Leddy Library (University of Windsor) assisted in obtaining copies of the manuscripts required to build the database. Funding was provided by NSERC (to P.F.S.) and OGS (to C.M. and P.M.C.).

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Correspondence to Camilo Mora.

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Mora, C., Chittaro, P., Sale, P. et al. Patterns and processes in reef fish diversity. Nature 421, 933–936 (2003).

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