Classification of Endemism

Endemic taxa can be classified into some categories, based on their distribution, origin, age, and taxonomy.

Autochtonous endemics. Taxa that evolved in the areas where they are currently found.

Allochtonous endemics. Taxa that evolved in a different area from where they are found today.

Taxonomic relicts. Taxa that are the sole survivors of a once diverse group.

Biogeographic relicts. Taxa that are the narrowly endemic descendants of a once widespread taxon. They are also known as living fossils or narrow endemics. Tuataras (Sphenodon punctatus and S. guntheri ), endemic to New Zealand, are a good example of biogeographic relicts.

Neoendemics. Taxa that have evolved relatively recently and may be restricted in their distribution because they have not had yet time to disperse further. The plant species Aquilegia barbaricina (Ranunculaceae), which grows only along water courses at 1300-1400 m in Sardinia, is an example of a neoendemic taxon.

Paleoendemics. Taxa that have a long evolutionary history and usually are restricted by barriers to dispersal or by extensive extinction in the remaining areas where they were distributed in the past. Bupleurum dianthifolium (Apiaceae), which today grows only in the small island of Marettimo, west of Sicily, but was widespread in mountains of the Mediterranean area when there were more tropical conditions, represents a paleoendemic species.

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