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Fundamental biogeographic patterns across the Mexican Transition Zone: an evolutionary approach

Morrone, Juan J.
Ecography 2010 v.33 no.2 pp. 355-361
hybridization, lowlands, Central America, Mexico, United States
Transition zones, located at the boundaries between biogeographic regions, represent events of biotic hybridization, promoted by historical and ecological changes. They deserve special attention, because they represent areas of intense biotic interaction. In its more general sense, the Mexican Transition Zone is a complex and varied area where Neotropical and Nearctic biotas overlap, from southwestern USA to Mexico and part of Central America, extending south to the Nicaraguan lowlands. In recent years, panbiogeographic analyses have led to restriction of the Mexican Transition Zone to the montane areas of Mexico and to recognize five smaller biotic components within it. A cladistic biogeographic analysis challenged the hypothesis that this transition zone is biogeographically divided along a north-south axis at the Transmexican Volcanic Belt, as the two major clades found divided Mexico in an east-west axis. This implies that early Tertiary geological events leading to the convergence of Neotropical and Nearctic elements may be younger (Miocene) than those that led to the east-west pattern (Paleocene). The Mexican Transition Zone consists of five biogeographic provinces: Sierra Madre Occidental, Sierra Madre Oriental, Transmexican Volcanic Belt, Sierra Madre del Sur, and Chiapas. Within this transition zone, at least four cenocrons have been identified: Paleoamerican, Nearctic, Montane Mesoamerican, and Tropical Mesoamerican. Future studies should continue refining the identification of cenocrons and the reconstruction of a geobiotic scenario, as well as integrating ecological biogeographic studies, to allow a more complete understanding of the patterns and processes that have caused the biotic complexity of this transition zone.