Origin and patterns of evolution in Pacific Compositae (Asteraceae)

The Compositae (Asteraceae) family is the largest flowering plant family with ca. 25,000 species. Its members have successfully colonized the Pacific Islands 38-43 times (Indigenous clades) resulting in 36 genera (six with more than one introduction) and 164 species.

Phylogenies have been generated for all but two of the species and so it is now possible to examine the patterns of evolution in the Pacific. Dominating the family phylogenies are a few clades that have successfully colonized three archipelagos: Hawaii, Marquesas and the Society Islands.

Of the large radiations two had remained unstudied on a global scale: Bidens (41 Pacific species) and Melanthera (23). Phylogenies for these two genera have been produced, including a large selections of outgroups, and we now have a better understanding of their radiation in the Pacific.

When these data are combined with existing phylogenies for the remainder of the Pacific Compositae several conclusions can be made including these: the most likely means of colonization is long distance dispersal from the closest source area and the clades that are successful can be predicted based on the overall phylogeny of the family. There are a few novel events of interest, all in the Hawaiian Islands. 

Vicki Funk is a Senior Research Botanist and Curator in the Department of Botany, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. She specialises in the systematics of the flowering plant family Compositae (Asteraceae). She is the Director of the Biological Diversity of the Guiana Shield Program and is President of the International Association for Plant Taxonomy. She is involved in fieldwork around the world, especially in Compositae hot spots such as southern Africa and the Americas. Her research interests cover systematics, biogeography, biodiversity, phylogenetic theory, and large scale synthetic works. She has published nearly 200 peer reviewed papers and 9 books.
Vicki is in Canberra for the Australasian Systematic Botany Society's annual conference and her visit is sponsored by the CBA. She is being hosted by Alexander Schmidt-Lebuhn (ANH, CSIRO).
Students interested in joining Vicki for lunch after her seminar should contact bee.gunn@anu.edu.au.