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Evolutionary biology

Sympatric plant speciation in islands? (Reply)

Nature volume 443, pages E12E13 (26 October 2006) | Download Citation



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

Stuessy1 questions our conclusions of sympatric speciation in a case study of palms on Lord Howe Island2 and proposes an alternative hypothesis, whereby the two Howea species evolved allopatrically when the island was larger and less eroded. Stuessy also argues that low genetic divergence does not necessarily indicate speciation in sympatry1. We agree that it is important not to jump to conclusions, but we have good estimates of the size and geological history of Lord Howe Island at the time of the speciation event3,4, and both are fully compatible with sympatric speciation. Stuessy also misinterprets the results from our AFLP (amplified DNA-fragment length polymorphism) genome scan: we did not assert that low AFLP divergence per se is evidence for sympatric speciation, but rather that the distribution of these genetic divergence values across the genome is strongly supportive of speciation with gene flow involving disruptive or divergent selection2.

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Author information


  1. *Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3DS, UK

    • Vincent Savolainen
    • , Christian Lexer
    • , J. J. Clarkson
    • , M. V. Norup
    • , M. P. Powell
    • , D. Springate
    •  & William J. Baker
  2. †Centre for Evolutionary and Functional Ecology, UMR 5175, 34293 Montpellier cedex 5, France

    • Marie-Charlotte Anstett
  3. ‡PO Box 157, Lord Howe Island, New South Wales 2898, Australia

    • Ian Hutton
  4. §Department of Systematic Botany, University of Aarhus, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark

    • M. V. Norup
  5. Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

    • N. Salamin


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