How repeatable is microevolution on islands?

Archipelagos provide a valuable framework for investigating phenotypic evolution under different levels of geographical isolation. García-Verdugo et al. analysed two co-distributed, widespread plant lineages to examine if incipient island differentiation follows parallel patterns of variation in traits related to dispersal and colonization.

Kleinia neriifolia
Kleinia neriifolia. Image: Canva.

The authors sampled twenty-one populations of two anemochorous Canarian endemics, Kleinia neriifolia and Periploca laevigata, to represent mainland congeners and two contrasting exposures across all the main islands. Leaf size, seed size and dispersability (estimated as diaspore terminal velocity) were characterized in each population. For comparison, dispersability was also measured in four additional anemochorous island species. Plastid DNA data were used to infer genetic structure and to reconstruct the phylogeographical pattern of our focal species.

Leaf size follows a more predictable pattern than dispersability, which is affected by stochastic shifts in seed size. Increased dispersability is associated with high population connectivity at the island scale, but does not preclude allopatric divergence among islands. In sum, phenotypic convergent patterns between species suggest a major role of selection, but deviating traits also indicate the potential contribution of random processes, particularly on peripheral islands.