Abstract

The geographic distribution of 293 Modern bivalve genera has been analyzed and found to be statistically correlated with distance. In particular, a least-squares regression analysis of the data indicates that the distance between faunal realms (D) in kilometers can be estimated using the equation D  =  (ln(d) + 0.4233)/−0.00013, where d is the Dice coefficient of faunal similarity. Analysis of 59 genera of Late Ordovician bivalves indicates that the above equation also describes their biogeographic distribution.

Using this formula, the distance between Laurentia and Scotland/Northwest Ireland was estimated to be 5500 kilometers. This is consistent with the reconstruction of a connection among these areas during the Late Ordovician based on brachiopod and graptolite biogeographic data.

Paleomagnetic and paleoclimatic data also suggest that Avalonia, Baltica, and Laurentia were at tropical latitudes. Distances between these paleocontinents can therefore be used to estimate paleolongitudes. If the location of England on the eastern side of Avalonia is used as zero degrees paleolongitude for the Late Ordovician as it is today, the paleolongitude for South America, Laurentia, Scotland and northwest Ireland, and Baltica would be 125°W, 45°W, 10°W, and 15°E, respectively. Because of drifting of the Avalonia plate, these paleolongitudes probably do not coincide with the longitudinal grid used today. The paleolongitudes indicate only the relative spacing between continents in the past. The methodology in this study should be useful for improving the accuracy of paleogeographic reconstructions for the Late Ordovician throughout the Cenozoic, and especially the Paleozoic periods for which magnetic seafloor anomaly data are not available.

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