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Time and tempo of diversification in the flora of New Caledonia

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Corresponding author: pillon@hawaii.edu

Abstract

New Caledonia is well known for its rich and unique flora. Many studies have focused on the biogeographical origins of New Caledonian plants but rates of diversification on the island have scarcely been investigated. Here, dated phylogenetic trees from selected published studies were used to evaluate the time and tempo of diversification in New Caledonia. The 12 plant lineages investigated all appear to have colonized the island < 37 Mya, when New Caledonia re-emerged after a period of inundation, and the timing of these arrivals is spread across the second half of the Cenozoic. Diversification rates are not particularly high and are negatively correlated with lineage age. The palms have the fastest diversification rates and also the most recent arrival times. The lineage ages of rainforest plants suggest that this ecosystem has been present for at least 6.9 Myr. The New Caledonian flora is apparently a relatively old community that may have reached a dynamic equilibrium. Colonization by new immigrants has been possible until relatively recently and diversity-dependent processes may still be affecting the diversification rates of the earlier colonizers. Further studies on the diversification of large plant clades with exhaustive sampling should help to clarify this. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 170, 288–298.

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