J Syst Evol ›› 2022, Vol. 60 ›› Issue (5): 973-997.DOI: 10.1111/jse.12836

• Review • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Origin and evolution of the Micronesian biota: Insights from molecular phylogenies and biogeography reveal long-distance dispersal scenarios and founder-event speciation

Else Demeulenaere1* and Stefanie M. Ickert-Bond2   

  1. 1 Center for Island Sustainability, University of Guam, Mangilao, 96913 GU, USA
    2 Deparment of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, 99775 AK, USA

    *Author for correspondence. E‐mail: else@uog.edu
  • Received:2021-09-02 Accepted:2022-01-29 Online:2022-02-11 Published:2022-09-01


Micronesian islands taxa show high endemism rates, but very little is known about their biogeographical histories. The lack of systematic biogeography is mainly due to insufficient phylogenetic research in Micronesia. With the recent increase in published molecular biogeographic data, we were able to, for the first time, answer fundamental biogeography questions by reviewing and analyzing numerous geological, ecological, and evolutionary studies. This review, in addition to providing an overview of Micronesian geological history, confirmed the importance of long-distance dispersal mechanisms and founder-event speciation, and morphological and physiological adaptations of plant propagules to cross vast stretches of ocean by wind, ocean currents, bird, or bat dispersal. These adaptations to habitat and geological features, including reef types, determined colonization success as well as inland dispersal and speciation mechanisms. We further identified the source areas of the Micronesian biota and reconstructed historical dispersal scenarios: a dominant Austro-Melanesian dispersal scenario, an Indo-Malaysian connecting to the Austro-Melanesian dispersal scenario, and a Neotropical American and an African dispersal scenario toward Micronesia. Most generic origins were estimated between the Eocene and the Miocene and dispersed to Micronesia between the Miocene and the Pleistocene.

Key words: endemic, founder‐event speciation, island biogeography, LDD scenarios, Micronesia