Abstract Detail

Floristics & Taxonomy

Becker, Anna [1], Fritsch, Peter [2], Cellinese, Nico [3].

Evolution of Hawaiian Blueberries (Vaccinium).

Hawaii’s extremely isolated, de novo nature fosters a high proportion of endemic lineages that have recently evolved across relatively small geographic distances in short intervals of time, characterizing the archipelago as a “living laboratory” for evolutionary studies. Few other places on Earth offer opportunity to study in-situ evolution on such a finite scale. Endemic Hawaiian Vaccinium, locally known as Ohelo, boasts dazzling morphological variation. Leaf structure, as well as fruit and flower colors, shapes, and sizes differ dramatically by locality, reflecting diversified ecotones that characterize Hawaii’s dramatic landscape. Growth habit is also highly variable, as one can find Ohelo in the most extreme parts of the islands, from 10-meter-tall spindly vines in high-elevation bogs to thumb-sized herbs dominating a sea-side cliffs and brittle shrubs that are the first to arrive on arid soils after volcanic eruption. Some evidence suggests that this group is monophyletic with a North American origin. However, because some of these plants are principally tropical in habit, whereas others are more obviously temperate, multiple origins followed by hybridization also seems likely. Although the current taxonomic treatment of Hawaiian Vacciniumrecognizes only three species, previous treatments and recent field observations suggest many more than that, including some distinct single-island endemic entities that have yet to be formally described. But because putative hybridization resulting in morphological trait mixtures may be rampant among Ohelo, the true diversity of this group has long been debated and is impossible to discern from morphology. Ohelo is important to Native Hawaiian culture as a traditional food with healing properties, and as a primary food source for endangered native birds. As a keystone species in most pristine Hawaiian habitat, Ohelo is often planted for rehabilitation of disturbed land. Yet locals do not have the tools to distinguish species, some of which may be rare and in need of protection.This study utilizes advanced phylogenomic methodology to trace the evolutionary history of Ohelo by (1) pinpointing the origin(s) of dispersal by identifying its closest mainland relative(s) and (2) uncovering the true diversity of the Hawaiian group. Cutting-edge analytical tools such as BEAST and BioGeoBears will be used to trace the evolution of this group across time and space, potentially illuminating in-situ diversification associated with Hawaii’s relatively recent biogeographic events. Ancestral state reconstructions will be implemented to illustrate how Ohelo’s morphological variety was selected over time, exposing changes in pollinator and disperser abundance through history.  

1 - University of Florida, Biology Department, Gainesville, FL, USA
2 - Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth, TX, USA
3 - Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL, USA

adaptive radiation

Presentation Type: Poster
Session: P, Floristics & Taxonomy Posters
Location: Virtual/Virtual
Date: Wednesday, July 29th, 2020
Time: 5:00 PM Time and date to be determined
Number: PFT002
Abstract ID:171
Candidate for Awards:None

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