Aim To estimate the rate of adaptive radiation of endemic Hawaiian Bidens and to compare their diversification rates with those of other plants in Hawaii and elsewhere with rapid rates of radiation.
Methods Fifty-nine samples representing all 19 Hawaiian species, six Hawaiian subspecies, two Hawaiian hybrids and an additional two Central American and two African Bidens species had their DNA extracted, amplified by polymerase chain reaction and sequenced for four chloroplast and two nuclear loci, resulting in a total of approximately 5400 base pairs per individual. Internal transcribed spacer sequences for additional outgroup taxa, including 13 non-Hawaiian Bidens, were obtained from GenBank. Phylogenetic relationships were assessed by maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference. The age of the most recent common ancestor and diversification rates of Hawaiian Bidens were estimated using the methods of previously published studies to allow for direct comparison with other studies. Calculations were made on a per-unit-area basis.
Results We estimate the age of the Hawaiian clade to be 1.3–3.1 million years old, with an estimated diversification rate of 0.3–2.3 species/million years and 4.8 × 10−5 to 1.3 × 10−4 species Myr−1 km−2. Bidens species are found in Europe, Africa, Asia and North and South America, but the Hawaiian species have greater diversity of growth form, floral morphology, dispersal mode and habitat type than observed in the rest of the genus world-wide. Despite this diversity, we found little genetic differentiation among the Hawaiian species. This is similar to the results from other molecular studies on Hawaiian plant taxa, including others with great morphological variability (e.g. silverswords, lobeliads and mints).
Main conclusions On a per-unit-area basis, Hawaiian Bidens have among the highest rates of speciation for plant radiations documented to date. The rapid diversification within such a small area was probably facilitated by the habitat diversity of the Hawaiian Islands and the adaptive loss of dispersal potential. Our findings point to the need to consider the spatial context of diversification – specifically, the relative scale of habitable area, environmental heterogeneity and dispersal ability – to understand the rate and extent of adaptive radiation.