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Multiple colonizations of a remote oceanic archipelago by one species: how common is long-distance dispersal?

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Abstract Aim 

It is well established that many groups of plants and animals have undergone long-distance dispersal, but the extent to which this continues beyond initial colonization is largely unknown. To provide further insight into the frequency of gene flow mediated by long-distance dispersal, we investigated the origins of the fern Asplenium hookerianum on the Chatham Islands, and present a review of the contribution of molecular data to elucidating the origins of this archipelago’s biota. Location 

Chatham Islands and New Zealand. A. hookerianum is scarce on the Chatham Islands but common in New Zealand, some 800 km to the west. Methods 

We compared chloroplast trnL–trnF DNA sequence data from Chatham Islands’A. hookerianum with extensive phylogeographic data for this genetically variable species in mainland New Zealand. Results 

Our sequencing revealed the presence of two haplotypes in Chatham Islands’A. hookerianum. These haplotypes differed by four mutational events and were each more closely related to haplotypes found in New Zealand than to each other. Main conclusions 

Despite the rarity of A. hookerianum on the Chatham Islands, its populations there appear to derive from at least two long-distance dispersal events from New Zealand, these possibly originating from different areas. We suggest that long-distance transoceanic dispersal, and the gene flow it can mediate, may be more common than is generally appreciated.
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Keywords: Asplenium hookerianum; Chatham Islands; New Zealand; colonization; fern; long-distance dispersal; recurrent migration

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Ecosystems and Species Unit, Research and Development Group, Department of Conservation, Newton, Auckland 2: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand

Publication date: 2009-10-01

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