The monophyly of island radiations: an evaluation of niche pre-emption and some alternative explanations



    Corresponding author
    1. Ecology and Evolution Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK,
      Correspondence: Jonathan Silvertown (e-mail
    Search for more papers by this author

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, University Park, Miami FL 33199, USA and Center for Tropical Plant Conservation, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 11935 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables (Miami), FL 33156, USA, and
    Search for more papers by this author

    1. Department of Botany, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
    Search for more papers by this author

Correspondence: Jonathan Silvertown (e-mail


  • 1It has been argued that niche pre-emption is not the only possible explanation for monophyly among Macaronesian endemic plants because (i) interspecific competition is diffuse, not species-specific, (ii) the radiations in question may not in fact be monophyletic, and (iii) later colonists may have hybridized with earlier ones, making a small and undetected contribution to the gene pool of lineages that appear to be monophyletic.
  • 2The niche pre-emption mechanism does not, however, require species-specific competitive interactions. It merely proposes that the clade created by adaptive radiation will occupy more niche space than the original colonist could on its own. Members of the clade will then collectively inhibit establishment by new colonists more effectively than can a colonist that has not radiated.
  • 3The monophyly of many larger radiations in the Macaronesian flora is well established and new studies tend to confirm this pattern.
  • 4A few later-arriving colonists may have undetectably hybridized with earlier arrivals, but this is only a genetic interpretation of the essential idea behind pre-emption, i.e. that early arrivals so outnumber later colonists that the latter cannot establish.
  • 5We do not therefore believe that hybridization provides an alternative explanation of why groups with multiple colonization failed to radiate in Macaronesia.