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Revista Brasileira de Zoologia

Print version ISSN 0101-8175

Rev. Bras. Zool. vol.17 no.1 Curitiba Mar. 2000 

Distributional patterns and possible origin of leafhoppers (Homoptera, Cicadellidae)



Mervin W. NielsonI; William J. KnightII

IMonte L. Bean Museum, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 8460, USA
IIThe Natural History Museum, London, UK, SW7 5BD




The zoogeographical distribution of 42 cicadellid subfamilies and their assigned tribes and genera is compiled with distributional maps and proposed dispersal pathways of genera that are shared interzoogeographically. Possible origin of the subfamilies and tribes is proposed in an ancestral context from which the more modern extant groups evolved whereas origin of genera is in a more modern context. Notwithstanding their complex biogeography, the distributional data of the higher groups indicate that all of the cosmopolitan and near cosmopolitan subfamilies arose during early Cretaceous or possibly the late Jurassic period (140-116 m.y.a.) when continental drift was in its early stages. Nearly all of the New World and some Old World subfamilies are considered of more recent origin (late Cretaceous-Tertiary).
Ninety percent of the known genera (2,126) are endemic to their respective zoogeographical region and subregion, thus indicating relatively high host specificity and low rate of dispersal. The majority (76%) of known extant genera are pantropical in origin, suggesting early or possible Gondwanaland origin of their ancestors. Dispersal pathways of genera shared by more than one zoogeographical region were generally south to north (Neotropical/Nearctic, Oriental/Palaearctic) or west to east (Palaearctic/Nearctic, Oriental/Australian), from regions of high diversity to regions of low diversity and from warmer climates to cooler climates.
The most diverse and richest leafhopper fauna are present in the Neotropical and Ethiopian regions although taxal affinities between them are poorest. The most depauperate fauna are in the Nearctic region and in Australia, reflecting the impact of isolating and ecological factors on distribution and radiation. Ecological barriers were more evident between the Ethiopian and Oriental fauna than between any other zoogeographical combination. Taxal affinities appeared to be correlated with close continental proximities. Vicariance (physical) was the principal event that appealed to explain the distribution of many subfamilies and tribes whereas dispersal accounted for distribution of the majority of interzoogeographical genera.

Key words: Leafhoppers, Cicadellidae, distribution, dispersal, vicariance, origin, classificaton, habitats



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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. We thank the following for their constructive and useful comments which immeasurably improved the content of the paper: Christopher H. Dietrich (Illinois Natural History Survey, Urbana, USA), Gabriel Mejdalani (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and two anonymous reviewers. We express also our appreciation! to Randal Baker, Graphics Designer (Monte L. Bean Museum, Brigham Young University) for his computer-generated faunal distribution and taxal pathway maps. This study was facilitated by the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, Brigham Young University.



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Recebido em 23.VII.1998; aceito em 03.II.2000.

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