Development of anchialine cave habitats and karst subterranean estuaries since the last ice age. Academic Article uri icon


  • Extinction models generally predict that coastal and neritic fauna benefit during sea-level rise (transgression), whereas sea-level retreat (regression) diminishes their suitable habitat area and promotes evolutionary bottlenecks. Sea-level change also impacts terrestrial island biogeography, but it remains a challenge to evidence how sea-level rise impacts aquatic island biogeography, especially in the subterranean realm. Karst subterranean estuaries (KSEs) occur globally on carbonate islands and platforms, and they are populated by globally-dispersed, ancient ecosystems (termed anchialine). Anchialine fauna currently exhibit a disjunct biogeography that cannot be completely explained by plate tectonic-imposed vicariance. Here we provide evidence that anchialine ecosystems can experience evolutionary bottlenecks caused by habitat reduction during transgression events. Marine-adapted anchialine fauna benefit from habitat expansion during transgressions, but fresh- and brackish-adapted fauna must emigrate, evolve to accommodate local habitat changes, or are regionally eliminated. Phanerozoic transgressions relative to long-term changes in subsidence and relief of regional lithology must be considered for explaining biogeography, evolution, local extirpation or complete extinction of anchialine fauna. Despite the omission of this entire category of environments and animals in climate change risk assessments, the results indicate thatanchialine fauna on low-lying islands and platforms that depend upon meteoric groundwater are vulnerable to habitat changes caused by 21st century sea-level rise.

published proceedings

  • Sci Rep

altmetric score

  • 1.25

author list (cited authors)

  • van Hengstum, P. J., Cresswell, J. N., Milne, G. A., & Iliffe, T. M.

citation count

  • 15

complete list of authors

  • van Hengstum, Peter J||Cresswell, Jacque N||Milne, Glenn A||Iliffe, Thomas M

publication date

  • January 2019