Located approximately 4000 km from the nearest continent, the Hawaiian Islands comprise the most isolated archipelago on Earth. This isolation has resulted in a unique flora that includes nearly 200 native ferns and lycophytes, 77% of which are endemic to the islands. Because the Hawaiian Islands are volcanic in origin, all abiotically dispersed organisms must have arrived there via the wind or the water. Fern spores are most likely dispersed through the air, and thus patterns of air movement have undoubtedly played a significant role in determining the geographic origins of the ancestors of the Hawaiian ferns. We have identified four possible climate-based or weather-based spore dispersal hypotheses that could have resulted in the movement of ancestral spores to the Hawaiian Islands: (1) the northern subtropical jetstream, moving spores from Indo-Pacific regions; (2) the trade winds, dispersing spores from Central and North America; (3) storms carrying spores from southern Mexico and/or Central America; and (4) a dispersal mechanism carrying spores from the South Pacific across the equator resulting from the combined influence of a seasonal southern shift of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), Hadley Cell air movement, and the trade winds. Utilizing recently published molecular phylogenetic studies of three fern genera (Dryopteris, Polystichum, and Hymenophyllum) and new analyses of three additional genera (Adenophorus, Grammitis, and Lellingeria), each of which is represented in the Hawaiian Islands by at least one endemic lineage, we reviewed the biogeographical implications for the Hawaiian taxa in light of the possible common dispersal patterns and pathways. We hypothesize that three of the five endemic Dryopteris lineages, both of the endemic Polystichum lineages, at least one endemic Hymenophyllum lineage in the Hawaiian Islands, and, perhaps, one endemic Grammitis lineage resulted from ancestral spores of each lineage dispersing to the Hawaiian Islands via the northern subtropical jetstream. Adenophorus is sister to a mostly neotropical clade, therefore, it is likely that the ancestor of the Hawaiian clade dispersed to the Hawaiian Islands via the trade winds or a storm system. The ancestor of the endemic Lellingeria lineage may have dispersed to the Hawaiian Islands from the neotropics via the trade winds or a storm system, or from the South Pacific across the equator through the combination of a seasonal southern shift of the ITCZ, Hadley Cells, and the trade winds.
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Vol. 59 • No. 2