Document Type

Honors Project On-Campus Access Only


Austropurcellia, a genus of mite harvestman (class Arachnida, order Opiliones, suborder Cyphophthalmi) endemic to the rainforests of the Wet Tropics of Queensland, Australia, is a dispersal-limited Gondwanan lineage whose diversity and evolutionary history is poorly understood. I identified new morphological species using scanning electron microscopy (A. tholei and A. cadens), reconstructed a molecular phylogeny for the genus, mapped current species localities, and modeled suitable habitats for the genus at time points from the Last Glacial Maximum through the present to determine areas of persistence during climatic instability. Monophyly of Austropurcellia is supported, and a previously identified phylogeographic break in other Wet Tropics animals is not found in this lineage. The current species distributions and high species richness of the region are explained both by the limited dispersal ability of these animals and climatic history of the Wet Tropics, which experienced dramatic climatic oscillations throughout the Quaternary, resulting in contraction and expansion of rainforest refugia.


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