Incipient radiation within the dominant Hawaiian tree Metrosideros polymorpha

Heredity (Edinb). 2014 Oct;113(4):334-42. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2014.47. Epub 2014 May 14.

Abstract

Although trees comprise a primary component of terrestrial species richness, the drivers and temporal scale of divergence in trees remain poorly understood. We examined the landscape-dominant tree, Metrosideros polymorpha, for variation at nine microsatellite loci across 23 populations on young Hawai'i Island, sampling each of the island's five varieties throughout its full geographic range. For four varieties, principal coordinate analysis revealed strong clustering of populations by variety across the 10 430 km(2) island, indicating partitioning of the species into multiple evolutionarily significant units. The single island-endemic form, riparian var. newellii, showed especially strong differentiation from other varieties despite occurring in sympatry with other varieties and likely evolved from a bog form on the oldest volcano, Kohala, within the past 500 000 years. Along with comparable riparian forms on other Pacific Islands, var. newellii appears to represent parallel incipient ecological speciation within Metrosideros. Greater genetic distance among the more common varieties on the oldest volcano and an inverse relationship between allelic diversity and substrate age appear consistent with colonization of Hawai'i Island by older, partially diverged varieties followed by increased hybridization among varieties on younger volcanoes. This study demonstrates that broad population-level sampling is required to uncover patterns of diversification within a ubiquitous and long-lived tree species. Hawaiian Metrosideros appears to be a case of incipient radiation in trees and thus should be useful for studies of divergence and the evolution of reproductive isolating barriers at the early stages of speciation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Biological Evolution
  • Ecosystem
  • Genetic Variation
  • Hawaii
  • Islands
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Myrtaceae / classification
  • Myrtaceae / genetics*
  • Myrtaceae / radiation effects*
  • Phylogeny
  • Trees / classification
  • Trees / genetics
  • Trees / radiation effects