Origin of the disjunct distribution of flower colour polymorphism within Limonium wrightii (Plumbaginaceae) in the Ryukyu Archipelago

Shun'Ichi Matsumura, Jun Yokoyama, Tatsuya Fukuda, Masayuki Maki

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The sea lavender, Limonium wrightii, has six morphs of flower colour variation. The geographical distribution of flower colour morphs is disjunct; the distribution of the pink flower morph is divided into two subregions, and that of the yellow flower morph intervenes between them. The present study aimed to examine the origin of this apparent distribution pattern of flower colour in L. wrightii. Two main hypotheses (i.e. past dispersal events and phenotypic changes by natural selection and/or stochastic processes) have been proposed to account for the origin of leapfrog distribution patterns. To determine which hypothesis was applicable, we conducted a molecular phylogenetic analysis using sequence variation in chloroplast DNA (three regions of intergenic spacers, trnG-trnfM, trnV-trnM, and psbA-trnH). We sequenced 58 accessions of L. wrightii frin 28 islands in the Ryukyu Archipelago and the Izu-Ogasawara Islands, located south of the Japanese mainland, and 12 accessions of four congeneric species. Within L. wrightii, we obtained four lineages of ten haplotypes. These lineages and haplotypes did not correlate with the different flower colours. These results indicate that the formation processes of populations are complex. The haplotypes of the pink flower morph did not show a sister relationship between the two disjunct subregions, indicating that the disjunct populations of the pink flower morphs are unlikely to share the pink flower colour as a result of common ancestry. We conclude that the observed leapfrog distribution pattern is caused by natural selection and/or stochastic processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-717
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Aug


  • Allopatric
  • Geographic structure
  • Insular plant
  • Leapfrog pattern
  • North-western Pacific
  • Subtropical


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