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Evolutionary biology

Sympatric plant speciation in islands?

Nature volume 443, page E12 (26 October 2006) | Download Citation



Arising from: V. Savolainen et al. Nature 441, 210–213 (2006); Savolainen et al reply.

Comparative studies of populations, particularly with the help of molecular markers, are necessary to understand the mechanisms of speciation in isolated oceanic archipelagos. Savolainen et al.1 present comparative data on two endemic species of the palm genus Howea in Lord Howe Island, from which they infer that speciation was sympatric — that is, divergence had occurred in the absence of geographic isolation. However, the landscape of oceanic islands changes dramatically over time, with many disappearing under the sea after 6 million years or more, and Lord Howe Island is in a very late stage of its ontogeny. An alternative explanation, therefore, is that these two species did not evolve in situ but instead that they arose allopatrically after becoming geographically isolated at a time when the island was much larger and more diverse ecologically.

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  1. Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, University of Vienna, 1030 Vienna, Austria

    • Tod F. Stuessy


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