Prioritizing areas for conservation requires the use of surrogates for assessing overall patterns of biodiversity. Effective surrogates will reflect general biogeographical patterns and the evolutionary processes that have given rise to these and their efficiency is likely to be influenced by several factors, including the spatial scale of species turnover and the overall congruence of the biogeographical history. We examine patterns of surrogacy for insects, snails, one family of plants and vertebrates from rainforests of northeast Queensland, an area characterized by high endemicity and an underlying history of climate-induced vicariance. Nearly all taxa provided some level of prediction of the conservation values for others. However, despite an overall correlation of the patterns of species richness and complementarity, the efficiency of surrogacy was highly asymmetric; snails and insects were strong predictors of conservation priorities for vertebrates, but not vice versa. These results confirm predictions that taxon surrogates can be effective in highly diverse tropical systems where there is a strong history of vicariant biogeography, but also indicate that correlated patterns for species richness and/or complementarity do not guarantee that one taxon will be efficient as a surrogate for another. In our case, the highly diverse and narrowly distributed invertebrates were more efficient as predictors than the less diverse and more broadly distributed vertebrates.