Geological And Morphological Evolution of The Socotra Archipelago (Yemen) from the Biogeographical View

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Abstract

Some misunderstandings persist in the biological literature, concerning the geological evolution of the Socotra Archipelago. The aim of this paper is to interpret new information about the Gulf of Aden geology, from the view of possible methods of terrestrial biota species migration to the Socotra Islands. An overview of the Socotra Platform with the Socotra Archipelago topography is given. Present-day geological publications are mostly oriented towards tectonic structure of the Gulf and its tectonic evolution, and thus information concerning the elevation of the land surface and the sea level was necessary to deduce. The first biogeographically relevant emergence of a land mass in the area of present-day Socotra Archipelago commenced during the late Eocene Epoch (38-34 Ma BP). Some islands persisted after later transgressions of the sea, before the time of the opening of the Gulf of Aden rift (ca 20-17 Ma), accompanied by substantial uplift and large-scale uplift of the land. This was the last time when terrestrial biota could, relatively easily, reach the area of the Socotra Archipelago on land from the African mainland, and also with medium probability from present-day Arabia. The total evaporation of the Red Sea from 11-5 Ma BP enabled the migration of terrestrial species from and to Arabia via Somalia. Nevertheless, channels in Guardafui and Brothers basins made important, but perhaps nonfatal, barriers. The last and most important uplift of Haggier Mts. on Socotra occurred at the end of the Miocene Epoch (9-6 Ma BP). That was probably the time of the last Tertiary emergence of the Socotra Platform, potentially enabling some species to migrate across narrowed abovementioned channels. Great changes in sea level occurred during the Quaternary Period, periodically exposing the surface of the Socotra platform. Two channels persisted, preventing the invasion of modern species onto the Socotra Archipelago. Channels within the Brothers basin between Abd al-Kuri Isl. and other islands of the Archipelago formed some barriers to dispersal, and probably led to important biota differences in the scope of the Archipelago. Finally, a scenario of the “facilitation” provided by tsunami and sea currents for the immigration of biota onto the Archipelago is presented.

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