Oceanic islands have long served as natural laboratories for understanding the diversification of life1,2,3,4. In particular, the many thousands of islands spanning the tropical Pacific support an unparalleled array of terrestrial communities whose patterns of diversity contributed fundamental insights to the development of classical speciation and biogeographic theory4,5,6,7,8. Much of this work is founded on an assumption derived from traditional taxonomic approaches, namely that faunas on these widely separated archipelagos stem from a simple one-way, downstream flow of colonists from continents to islands2,4. Here we show, with the use of molecular phylogenetic data from one of the original bird families used to justify this assumption, that a diverse array of endemic island genera and species are the product of a single radiation that diversified across all major Pacific archipelagos in a non-stepping-stone fashion, and recently recolonized continental areas. The geographic scope and lineage-specific approach of this study reveal evolutionary patterns long obscured by traditional taxonomic surveys and indicate that widely dispersed archipelagos can be sources of biological diversity.
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This paper is dedicated to the memory of Ernst Mayr and his lifelong contribution to biology. We thank G. Barrowclough, J. Cracraft, R. Ricklefs, C. E. Smith and D. Steadman for comments. This work was supported in part by the F. M. Chapman Memorial Fund and by the L. C. and L. J. Sanford Funds of the American Museum of Natural History. The research was conducted in the Ambrose Monell Molecular Laboratory and is a contribution of the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Program for Molecular Systematic Studies, a joint initiative of the New York Botanical Gardens and the American Museum of Natural History.
Nucleotide sequences newly determined here have been deposited in GenBank under the accession numbers DQ084072–DQ084119. Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.
This file includes Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary Tables 1–3 and Supplementary Figure Legends. (DOC 115 kb)
Maximum likelihood topology recovered using combined nuclear and mtDNA data, and ML bootstrap and Bayesian posterior probability values for all nodes in the tree. (PDF 1532 kb)
This figure shows trees for each of the two genes analysed separately and also includes bootstrap and posterior probability information. (PDF 1676 kb)
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Filardi, C., Moyle, R. Single origin of a pan-Pacific bird group and upstream colonization of Australasia. Nature 438, 216–219 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04057
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