Systematics, evolution and development in Opiliones (Arachnida)

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Systematics, evolution and development in Opiliones (Arachnida)

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Title: Systematics, evolution and development in Opiliones (Arachnida)
Author: Sharma, Prashant Pradeep
Citation: Sharma, Prashant Pradeep. 2012. Systematics, evolution and development in Opiliones (Arachnida). Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation investigates evolutionary relationships within a diverse and ancient group of arachnids, the order Opiliones, with emphasis on relationships within the suborder Laniatores. Laniatorid harvestmen encompass over two-thirds of opilionid diversity, but this suborder has received far less than commensurate phylogenetic attention. The ancient age and narrow species distributions of Laniatores, in conjunction with their representation throughout tropical and subtropical regions of the world, herald models of unparalleled utility for study of tropical diversity and biogeography. Herein I infer the phylogeny of Laniatores using a ten-gene molecular dataset, which samples for the first time every described family of the group. Based upon morphological and molecular sequence data, I describe three new families of Laniatores--two endemic to Southeast Asia and one to the Afrotropics. Focusing on the biogeography of Australasia, I contrast the evolutionary histories of two families: Sandokanidae, which are restricted to the Indo-Malay Archipelago, and Zalmoxidae, which occurs in the Neotropics and Australasia. Using molecular phylogenetic tools, I demonstrate that sandokanid distribution is largely attributable to continental vicariance in Sundaland, whereas zalmoxid distribution is attributable to a New World origin, followed by colonization of the Indo-Pacific by transoceanic dispersal.
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