Ancestral range reconstruction of remote oceanic island species of Plantago (Plantaginaceae) reveals differing scales and modes of dispersal

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt


  • Natalie Eva Iwanycki Ahlstrand
  • Brecht Verstraete
  • Gustavo Hassemer
  • Stephanie Dunbar-Co
  • Ronald K Hoggard
  • Heidi Meudt
  • Rønsted, Nina
Aim: To resolve the phylogenetic placement of island taxa, reconstruct ancestral origins, and resolve competing hypotheses of dispersal patterns and biogeographical histories for oceanic island endemic taxa within subgenus Plantago (Plantaginaceae) with the most comprehensive sampling to-date.

Location: Oceanic islands (Juan Fernández Islands, the Auckland Islands, Lord Howe Island, New Amsterdam Island, New Zealand, Tasmania, Falkland Islands, Rapa Iti, and the Hawaiian Islands).

Taxon: Island endemics of unknown ancestral origin within Plantago (Plantaginaceae), a globally distributed taxonomic group comprising approximately 250 species.

Methods: We use Bayesian phylogenetic and divergence time analyses, and historical biogeographical analysis of molecular sequence data to infer the ancestral origins of the remote oceanic island species in Plantago.

Results: Taxa within subgenus Plantago form clades based on geographic proximities, and challenge previous phylogenetic relationships and classification based on morphology. The analyses allow us to infer that biogeographic histories of multiple oceanic island taxa from Plantago were shaped by dispersal at different scales and possibly by different types of birds. The highly remote Hawaiian Islands and Rapa Iti were colonised from North American taxa in a pattern corresponding to known migration routes of large marine birds, rather than from New Zealand as previously hypothesised. The island endemics of Juan Fernández, the Falkland Islands, Lord Howe, Auckland Islands and New Zealand are found to have sources in the nearest continental areas, and may have been dispersed by smaller birds. The analyses confirm recent speciation within subgenus Plantago – which is particularly heightened in island lineages in Hawaii and Rapa Iti – but show slightly older divergence times than previous molecular dating studies.

Main conclusions: Using molecular data to infer ancestral ranges for plants with uncertain taxonomic relationships can greatly improve our understanding of biogeographical histories and help elucidate origins, dispersal modes and routes in widespread lineages with complex distribution patterns such as Plantago. We improve understanding of important floristic exchange areas between continents and islands as a result of long-distance dispersal by birds. We infer that a combination of both stepping stone dispersal and extreme long-distance dispersal can shape insular floras, and that multiple floristic areas can be the sources of closely related island taxa. However, despite the successful dispersal of Plantago, radiation in island archipelagos are generally limited suggesting specific traits may limit further diversification.
TidsskriftJournal of Biogeography
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)706-722
StatusUdgivet - 15 mar. 2019

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