• Inseliellum;
  • Pacific Islands;
  • phylogenetic biogeography;
  • Brooks parsimony analysis;
  • MacArthur–Wilson model;
  • taxon pulse radiations


Aim Provide an empirical test of the ‘radiation zone’ hypothesis of the MacArthur–Wilson theory of island biogeography using the taxon-pulse hypothesis of Erwin and Brooks Parsimony Analysis (BPA) on Simulium (Inseliellum) Rubstov.

Location Micronesia, Cook Islands, Austral Islands, Society Islands, Marquesas Islands, Fiji and New Caledonia.

Methods Primary and secondary BPA of the phylogeny of Inseliellum.

Results Primary BPA showed that 15% of the taxon area cladogram contained area reticulations. Secondary BPA (invoking the area duplication convention) generated a clear sequence of dispersal for Inseliellum. The sequence follows a Micronesia – Cook Islands – Marquesas Islands – Society Islands dispersal, with a separate dispersal from the Cook Islands to the Austral Islands less than 1 Ma. A radiation in the island of Tahiti (Society Islands) produced numerous dispersals from Tahiti to other islands within the Society Islands system. Islands close to Tahiti (source island) have been colonized from Tahiti more often than islands far from Tahiti, but a higher proportion of those species colonizing distant islands have become distinct species.

Main conclusions The dispersal sequence of Inseliellum exhibits both old to young island dispersal and young to old island dispersal. This is due to habitat availability on each island. Inseliellum is a model system in exemplifying the ‘radiation zone’ hypothesis of MacArthur and Wilson. As well, islands close to the source are colonized more often that those far from the source, but colonization of islands far away from the source results in a higher proportion of speciation events than for islands close to the source. The diversification of Inseliellum corresponds to a taxon-pulse radiation, with a centre of diversification on Tahiti resulting from its large area and abundant freshwater habitats. This study illustrates the utility of BPA in identifying complex scenarios that can be used to test theories about the complementary roles of ecology and phylogeny in historical biogeography.