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From the tropics to the pole and back again: radiation in the flathead fishes (Platycephalidae) across Australia and the Indo-West Pacific


Puckridge, M and Last, PR and Gledhill, DC and Andreakis, N, From the tropics to the pole and back again: radiation in the flathead fishes (Platycephalidae) across Australia and the Indo-West Pacific, Journal of Biogeography, 46, (4) pp. 680-693. ISSN 0305-0270 (2019) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

DOI: doi:10.1111/jbi.13484



To develop a comparative phylogeographic framework to understand the origins, evolution, taxonomic richness, and distribution of Australian demersal fish endemics in the context of the Indo‐West Pacific (IWP).


Southern Australia and the IWP.


Platycephalidae (flathead fishes).


Nuclear and mitochondrial phylogenies of flathead fishes were inferred from 46 of 85 nominal species, and 14 additional cryptic species‐level lineages, representing 17 of the 18 genera. Molecular clocks and habitat trait reconstructions were used to infer the palaeoclimatic and geological events responsible for shaping the evolution and diversification of the group.


The family Platycephalidae comprises two sister subfamilies; Platycephalinae and Onigociinae, which diverged in the Eocene into predominantly temperate and tropical assemblages respectively. The basal platycephalin taxa are confined to southern Australia with the most derived groups in the tropics, following a high‐ to low‐latitudinal evolutionary trajectory. In contrast, the onigociins are predominantly associated with the tropics, and have diversified across the region since the early Miocene with very few introductions into temperate Australia.

Main conclusions

Platycephalinae and Onigociinae show contrasting evolutionary scenarios. Platycephalins have a temperate to tropical evolutionary trajectory consistent with their arrival into the region via tectonic rafting and subsequent dispersal. This dispersal was likely facilitated by formation of shallow‐water environments along the Sunda Arc margin following collision of the Australian and Eurasian Plates. In contrast, the Onigociinae has likely maintained a tropical presence across the IWP since the Eocene and has experienced higher diversification rates leading to circa three times the species diversity found in the Platycephalinae. Rounds of dispersal and allopatric speciation have subsequently played out across both low and high latitudes with both subfamilies harbouring cryptic species‐level lineages. This work provides an explicit working hypothesis for exploring origins and diversification in other demersal fishes endemic to the Australian continent.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Australian fauna, biodiversity hotspot, comparative phylogeography, cryptic species, endemic, Latitudinal Diversity Gradient, Platycephalidae, temperate origins
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Evolutionary biology
Research Field:Animal systematics and taxonomy
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences
UTAS Author:Puckridge, M (Ms Melody Puckridge)
ID Code:137674
Year Published:2019
Web of Science® Times Cited:1
Deposited By:Fisheries and Aquaculture
Deposited On:2020-02-26
Last Modified:2020-06-10

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