Anthropoid primates other than humans show a conspicuously disjunct geographic distribution today, inhabiting mostly tropical and subtropical parts of Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. During the latter part of the Eocene, early anthropoids showed a similarly disjunct distribution, although South America and Africa were both island continents then. Attempts to explain the historical biogeography of anthropoids as resulting from vicariance caused by tectonic rifting between South America and Africa conflict with both the chronology and the topology of anthropoid evolution. The only viable hypotheses that remain entail sweepstakes dispersal across marine barriers by early monkeys on natural rafts. Early anthropoids and certain Asian rodent clades seem to have been especially adept at accomplishing sweepstakes dispersal, particularly during the Eocene, although this process has classically been envisioned as highly random and extremely rare. This article identifies and discusses biological and geological factors that make sweepstakes dispersal by certain taxa at given times far less random than previously conceived.


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