bathomes; biogeography; Indo-Pacific; provinces; rays; sharks
The major biogeographic structure and affinities of the Australian chondrichthyan fauna were investigated at both interregional and intraregional scales and comparisons made with adjacent bioregions. Faunal lists were compiled from six geographical regions with species from these regions assigned to distributional classes and broad habitat categories. Australian species were further classified on provincial and bathomic structure following bioregionalization outputs from regional marine planning. About 40% of the world's chondrichthyan fauna occurs in Indo-Australasia (482 species) of which 323 species are found in Australian seas. The tropical Australian component, of which c. 46% of taxa are regional endemics, is most similar to faunas of Indonesia, New Guinea and New Caledonia. The temperate Australian component is most similar to New Zealand and Antarctica with about half of its species endemic. Highest levels of Australian endemism exist in bathomes of the outer continental shelf and upper slope. A relatively high proportion of regional endemism (57% of species) on the slope in the poorly surveyed but species-rich Solanderian unit is probably due to high levels of large-scale habitat complexity in the Coral Sea. The richness of demersal assemblages on the continental shelf and slope appears to be largely related to the spatial complexity of the region and the level of exploration. Much lower diversity off Antarctica is consistent with the pattern in teleosts. The complex chondrichthyan fauna of Australia is confirmed as being amongst the richest of the mega-diverse Indo-West Pacific Ocean. Species-level compositions of regional faunas across Indo-Australasia differ markedly because of moderate to high levels of intraregional speciation. Faunal assemblages in Australian marine provinces and bathomes differ from each other, supporting a broader pattern for fishes that underpins a marine planning framework for the region.