Biogeography and diversity of reef corals of the eastern Pacific and western Atlantic

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Peter W. Glynn - Committee Chair


In recent years, reef coral biogeography has undergone significant changes in objectives and research approaches due to: (a) the more detailed revision of reefs worldwide; (b) the incorporation of concepts and quantitative procedures from other disciplines; and (c) the need to provide good baselines of species presence at local and regional scales. The new information has underlined the need to reevaluate ideas on the processes that determine coral distribution and diversity. The chief objectives of this study were to describe the most relevant patterns of reef coral distribution and species diversity in the eastern Pacific and western Atlantic, and to identify agents that shape the observed trends. The main findings of the study were: (1) Regional diversity of reef corals in the eastern Pacific and western Atlantic were 44 and 65 species, respectively. (2) The species inventory seems to be almost complete in the Atlantic, but a number of taxa might be eventually found in the eastern Pacific. (3) Reef corals in the west Americas are distributed in three main biogeographic provinces: Central American ("Panamic"), the southern Gulf of California, and the Revillagigedo and Clipperton islands ("Insular"). They do not conform to a single regional species pool. In contrast, the Atlantic has only two provinces (the Caribbean and Brazil), and the fauna is quite homogeneous. (4) Local species richness in both regions is primarily determined by local environmental factors (especially temperature), although regional factors are relevant in the eastern Pacific as many species are immigrants from the Indo Pacific. (5) The geographic range of corals in both regions was positively related to their geological age, and also to membership in particular functional groups. (6) The potential loss of rare species in the study regions would not affect the biogeographic patterns depicted, however, local and regional diversity would decrease in both study regions.


Biology, Ecology; Biology, Oceanography

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