Aim The aim is to use DNA sequence data to test between vicariance and long range dispersal (by floating seed-pods) explanations for the origin and range of the Edwardsia species of Sophora (Sophoreae: Papilionoideae: Leguminosae).
Location This group is widely distributed around the South Pacific and into the South Atlantic on both continental fragments and oceanic islands.
Methods DNA sequences from an intergene region (atpB-rbcL) of the chloroplast were determined for twelve taxa (including outgroups) and used to test these hypotheses. Sophora fossils were used to calibrate the evolutionary tree.
Results The Edwardsia group of Sophora appears monophyletic and is well differentiated from other Sophora. However, the genetic difference between species within the South Pacific and to the South Atlantic is very low.
Main conclusionsThe results eliminate vicariance explanations for this section of Sophora and strongly support an origin from other (non-Edwardsia) Sophora in the north-west Pacific. Dispersal appears initially to be to Tuvalu, Lord Howe Island, New Zealand, and subsequently across the South Pacific, probably within the last 2–5 million years. Dispersal of buoyant Sophora seeds to oceanic islands is the most likely explanation of its distributions. Fossil pollen dates in New Zealand are consistent with the conclusion.