The flora of Macaronesia, which encompasses five Atlantic archipelagos (Azores, Canaries, Madeira, Cape Verde, and Salvage), is exceptionally rich and diverse.
Spectacular radiation of numerous endemic plant groups has made the Macaronesian islands an outstanding area for studies of evolution and speciation. Despite intensive investigation in the last 15 years, absolute age and rate of diversification are poorly known for the flora of Macaronesia. Here we report molecular divergence estimates and rates of diversification for five representative, putative rapid radiations of monophyletic endemic plant lineages across the core eudicot clade of flowering plants. Three discrete windows of colonization during the Miocene and early Pliocene are suggested for these lineages, all of which are inferred to have had a single colonization event followed by rapid radiation. Subsequent inter-archipelago dispersal events into Madeira and the Cape Verdes took place very recently during the late Pliocene and Pleistocene after initial diversification on the Canary Islands. The tempo of adaptive radiations differs among the groups, but is relatively rapid compared to continental and other island radiations. Our results demonstrate that opportunity for island colonization and successful radiation may have been constrained to discrete time periods of profound climatic and geological changes in northern African and the Mediterranean.
Kim, S.-C., McGowen, M. R., Lubinsky, P., Barber, J. C., Mort, M. E., & Santos-Guerra, A. (2008). Timing and Tempo of Early and Successive Adaptive Radiations in Macaronesia. PLoS ONE, 3(5). http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0002139