Journal: Journal of Biogeography


Aim The Western Indian Ocean region (WIOR) is home to a very diverse and largely unique flora that has mainly originated via long-distance dispersals. The aim of this study is to gain insight into the origins of the WIOR biodiversity and to understand the dynamics of colonization events between the islands. We investigate spatial and temporal hypotheses of the routes of dispersal, and compare the dispersal patterns of plants of the Coffeeae alliance (Rubiaceae) and their dispersers. Rubiaceae is the second most species-rich plant family in Madagascar, and includes many endemic genera. The neighbouring archipelagos of the Comoros, Mascarenes and Seychelles also harbour several endemic Rubiaceae.

Location The islands of the Western Indian Ocean.

Methods Phylogenetic relationships and divergence times were reconstructed from plastid DNA data of an ingroup sample of 340 species, using Bayesian inference. Ancestral areas and range evolution history were inferred by a maximum likelihood method that takes topological uncertainty into account.

Results At least 15 arrivals to Madagascar were inferred, the majority of which have taken place within the last 10 Myr. Most dispersal events were supported as being from mainland Africa, but Catunaregam may have dispersed from Asia. Although most Coffeeae alliance lineages are zoochorous, the general pattern of dispersals from Africa is incongruent with the biogeographic origins ofthe extant Malagasy volant frugivores. Several out-of-Madagascar dispersals were inferred to the neighbouring islands, as well as back-colonizations of

Main conclusions The African flora has been of foremost importance as source of dispersal to the islands of the Western Indian Ocean. Following the colonization of Madagascar, rapid radiations appear to have taken place in some clades, and Madagascar has also been an important source area for subsequent dispersal to the Comoros, Mascarenes and Seychelles.