Royal Society Publishing


The enigmatic fern genus Diellia, endemic to the Hawaiian archipelago, consists of five extant and one recently extinct species. Diellia is morphologically highly variable, and a unique combination of characters has led to several contrasting hypotheses regarding the relationship of Diellia to other ferns. A phylogenetic analysis of four chloroplast loci places Diellia within ‘black–stemmed’ rock spleenworts of the species–rich genus Asplenium, as previously suggested by W. H. Wagner. Using an external calibration point, we estimate the divergence of the Diellia lineage from its nearest relatives to have occurred at ca. 24.3 Myr ago matching an independent estimate for the renewal of Hawaiian terrestrial life (ca. 23 Myr ago). We therefore suggest that the ancestor of the Diellia lineage may have been among the first successful colonists of the newly emerging islands in the archipelago. Disparity between morphological and nucleotide sequence variation within Diellia is consistent with a recent rapid radiation. Our estimated time of the Diellia radiation (ca. 2 Myr ago) is younger than the oldest island of Kaua'i (ca. 5.1 Myr ago) but older than the younger major islands of Maui (ca. 1.3 Myr ago), Lana'i (ca. 1.3 Myr ago) and Hawaii (ca. 0.43 Myr ago).



  • Present address: Carroll College, Department of Natural Sciences, Helena, MT59625, USA