Climatic niche pre-adaptation facilitated island colonization followed by budding speciation in the Madeiran ivy (Hedera maderensis, Araliaceae)

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The path followed by species in the colonization of remote oceanic islands ultimately depends on their phylogenetic constraints and ecological responses. In this study, we aim to evaluate the relative role of geographical and ecological forces in the origin and evolution of the Madeiran ivy (Hedera maderensis), a single-species endemic belonging to the western polyploid clade of Hedera. To determine the phylogenetic placement of H. maderensis within the western polyploid clade, we analyzed 40 populations (92 individuals) using genotyping-by-sequencing and including Hedera helix as outgroup. Climatic niche differences among the study species were evaluated using a database with 867 records representing the entire species ranges. To test species responses to climate, 13 vegetative and reproductive functional traits were examined for 70 populations (335 individuals). Phylogenomic results revealed a nested pattern with H. maderensis embedded within the south-western Iberian H. iberica. Gradual niche differentiation from the coldest and most continental populations of H. iberica to the warm and stable coastal population sister to H. maderensis parallels the geographical pattern observed in the phylogeny. Similarity in functional traits is observed for H. maderensis and H. iberica. The two species show leaves with higher specific leaf area (SLA), lower leaf dry matter content (LDMC) and thickness and fruits with lower pulp fraction than the other western polyploid species H. hibernica. Acquisition of a Macaronesian climatic niche and the associated functional syndrome in mainland European ivies (leaves with high SLA, and low LDMC and thickness, and fruits with less pulp content) was a key step in the colonization of Madeira by the H. iberica/H. maderensis lineage, which points to climatic pre-adaptation as key in the success of island colonization (dispersal and establishment). Once in Madeira, budding speciation was driven by geographical isolation, while ecological processes are regarded as secondary forces with a putative impact in the lack of further in situ diversification.