Evaluation of genetic isolation within an island flora reveals unusually widespread local adaptation and supports sympatric speciation

Alexander S. T. Papadopulos, Maria Kaye, Céline Devaux, Helen Hipperson, Jackie Lighten, Luke T. Dunning, Ian Hutton, William J. Baker, Roger K. Butlin, Vincent Savolainen

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It is now recognized that speciation can proceed even when divergent natural selection is opposed by gene flow. Understanding the extent to which environmental gradients and geographical distance can limit gene flow within species can shed light on the relative roles of selection and dispersal limitation during the early stages of population divergence and speciation. On the remote Lord Howe Island (Australia), ecological speciation with gene flow is thought to have taken place in several plant genera. The aim of this study was to establish the contributions of isolation by environment (IBE) and isolation by community (IBC) to the genetic structure of 19 plant species, from a number of distantly related families, which have been subjected to similar environmental pressures over comparable time scales. We applied an individual-based, multivariate, model averaging approach to quantify IBE and IBC, while controlling for isolation by distance (IBD). Our analyses demonstrated that all species experienced some degree of ecologically driven isolation, whereas only 12 of 19 species were subjected to IBD. The prevalence of IBE within these plant species indicates that divergent selection in plants frequently produces local adaptation and supports hypotheses that ecological divergence can drive speciation in sympatry.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20130342
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1648
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2014


  • local adaption
  • ecological speciation
  • genetic structure

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