The apparent biotic affinities between the mainland and the island in the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot have been interpreted as the result of frequent migrations during recent periods of low sea level. We show, using molecular phylogenies of two invertebrate and four vertebrate groups, that biotic interchange between these areas has been much more limited than hitherto assumed. Despite several extended periods of land connection during the past 500,000 years, Sri Lanka has maintained a fauna that is largely distinct from that of the Indian mainland. Future conservation programs for the subcontinent should take into account such patterns of local endemism at the finest scale at which they may occur.
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