Biogeography and evolutionary diversification in one of the most widely distributed and species rich genera of the Pacific

Typical island cliff habitat of Coprosma longifolia overlooking Waianae Kai Valley, O‘ahu of the Hawaiian Islands. Photo credit: Maggie J. Sporck-Koehler.

The largest natural feature on Earth is the Pacific Ocean, which covers over one-third of our planet’s surface. Despite its extent, the historical biogeography of many lineages ­– of both terrestrial and marine ocean habitats – remains poorly investigated. In a recent study published in AoB PLANTS and designated as an Editor’s Choice, Cantley et al. reconstructed the previously unknown historical biogeography of Coprosma (Rubiaceae), which is one of the largest (>110 species) and most widespread flowering plant genera distributed across the Pacific. A New Zealand origin of Coprosma was inferred at approximately 25 million years ago (Ma), but most of the distribution was achieved 6 Ma, likely by frugivorous birds. Over 30 dispersal events are inferred and >8 locations were colonized more than once, which is perhaps more than any Pacific-centered genus investigated to date.

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