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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Apr 30;93(9):4085-90.

Chloroplast DNA evidence of colonization, adaptive radiation, and hybridization in the evolution of the Macaronesian flora.

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  • 1Department of Botany, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78713-7640, USA.


Most evolutionary studies of oceanic islands have focused on the Pacific Ocean. There are very few examples from the Atlantic archipelagos, especially Macaronesia, despite their unusual combination of features, including a close proximity to the continent, a broad range of geological ages, and a biota linked to a source area that existed in the Mediterranean basin before the late Tertiary. A chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) restriction site analysis of Argyranthemum (Asteraceae: Anthemideae), the largest endemic genus of plants of any volcanic archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, was performed to examine patterns of plant evolution in Macaronesia. cpDNA data indicated that Argyranthemum is a monophyletic group that has speciated recently. The cpDNA tree showed a weak correlation with the current sectional classification and insular distribution. Two major cpDNA lineages were identified. One was restricted to northern archipelagos--e.g., Madeira, Desertas, and Selvagens--and the second comprised taxa endemic to the southern archipelago--e.g., the Canary Islands. The two major radiations identified in the Canaries are correlated with distinct ecological habitats; one is restricted to ecological zones under the influence of the northeastern trade winds and the other to regions that are not affected by these winds. The patterns of phylogenetic relationships in Argyranthemum indicate that interisland colonization between similar ecological zones is the main mechanism for establishing founder populations. This phenomenon, combined with rapid radiation into distinct ecological zones and interspecific hybridization, is the primary explanation for species diversification.

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