Evolution of Cyrtandra (Gesneriaceae) in the Pacific Ocean: The Origin of a Supertramp Clade

Quentin C. B. Cronk, University of British Columbia
Michael Kiehn, University of Vienna
Warren L. Wagner, Smithsonian Institution
James F. Smith, Boise State University

This document was originally published by Botanical Society of America in American Journal of Botany. Copyright restrictions may apply. DOI: 10.3732/ajb.92.6.1017


Cyrtandra comprises at least 600 species distributed throughout Malesia, where it is known for many local endemics and in Polynesia and Micronesia, where it is present on most island groups, and is among the most successfully dispersing genera of the Pacific. To ascertain the origin of the oceanic Pacific island species of Cyrtandra, we sequenced the internal transcribed spacers of nuclear ribosomal DNA of samples from throughout its geographical range. Because all oceanic Pacific island species form a well-supported clade, these species apparently result from a single initial colonization into the Pacific, possibly by a species from the eastern rim of SE Asia via a NW-to-SE stepping stone migration. Hawaiian species form a monophyletic group, probably as a result of a single colonization. The Pacific island clade of Cyrtandra dispersed across huge distances, in contrast to the apparent localization of the SE Asian clades. Although highly vagile, the Pacific clade is restricted to oceanic islands. Individual species are often endemic to a single island, characteristic of the "supertramp" life form sensu Diamond (1974, Science 184: 803-806). The evolution of fleshy fruit within Cyrtandra provided an adaptation for colonization throughout the oceanic Pacific via bird dispersal from a single common ancestor.