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"Explosive" adaptive radiations on islands remain one of the most puzzling evolutionary phenomena and the evolutionary genetic processes behind such radiations remain unclear. Rapid morphological and ecological evolution during island radiations suggests that many genes may be under fairly strong selection, although this remains untested. Here, we report that during a rapid recent diversification in the Hawaiian endemic plant genus Schiedea (Caryophyllaceae), 5 in 36 studied genes evolved under positive selection. Positively selected genes are involved in defence mechanisms, photosynthesis, and reproduction. Comparison with eight mainland plant groups demonstrates both the relaxation of purifying selection and more widespread positive selection in Hawaiian Schiedea. This provides compelling evidence that adaptive evolution of protein-coding genes may play a significant role during island adaptive radiations.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Biol Evol

Publication Date





1051 - 1059


Adaptation, Physiological, Biological Evolution, Caryophyllaceae, Hawaii, Molecular Sequence Data, Phylogeny