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The Linnean shortfall in oceanic island biogeography: a case study in the Azores

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Abstract Aim 

Speciation processes on islands are still poorly understood. Previous studies based on the analysis of distribution data from checklists found that the flora of the Azores archipelago differs from other island floras in the exceptionally low number of radiations and the low number of single-island endemics. The general mechanism(s) responsible for these apparently unique patterns remained unclear. One possible explanation for the distinctiveness of the Azorean endemic flora is the lack of a consistent and critical taxonomic framework for the floras of the Atlantic archipelagos. In this study, molecular variation within a range of Azorean endemic plant lineages was analysed to determine whether inadequacies in the current taxonomy of endemics might be an explanation for the unusual diversity patterns observed in the endemic flora of the Azores. Location 

Azores archipelago. Method 

Sixty-nine populations of eight endemic species or subspecies belonging to five genetic lineages were sampled from all Azorean islands but one. Nuclear and plastid DNA regions were sequenced, and relationships among internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region ribotypes established using statistical parsimony. Results 

Molecular diversity patterns differ from current taxonomic groupings, with all lineages comprising previously overlooked genetic entities. Main conclusions 

Recognition as distinct taxa of the genetically distinct entities discovered in this study would drastically change the diversity patterns and make them more similar to those of other Atlantic archipelagos. The results serve to highlight that current knowledge of endemic diversity on oceanic islands may be far from complete, even in relatively well-known groups such as angiosperms. This limitation is rarely considered in macroecological and evolutionary studies that make use of data from taxonomic checklists to draw inferences about oceanic island biogeographic processes.
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Keywords: Ammi; Angelica lignescens; Azorina vidalii; Euphorbia stygiana; ITS; Pericallis malvifolia; checklist; cryptic diversity; island biogeography; macroecology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: CIBIO Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources – Azores, Department of Biology, University of the Azores, Rua Mãe de Deus 58, Apartado 1422, 9501-801 Ponta Delgada, Portugal 2: Department of Botany, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK

Publication date: 2011-07-01

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