Explore nature!
 o Plants
 o Underwater
 o Bugs
 o Mammals
 o Pacific
 o Theory
 o What is a species?

 Interesting Stuff
 o Workshops
 o Conferences
 o Links of interest
 o Discussion Forum

 o Home
 o What is SYSTANZ?
 o What is Systematics?
 o People
 o Contacts

New Zealand Biogeography and the evolution of its forest flora

Michael Knapp

Michael Knapp

Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution,
Institute of Molecular BioSciences
Massey University
Palmerston North
New Zealand
Email: M.Knapp@massey.ac.nz
Tel: 6463569099
Fax: 6463505622

Dr. Peter Lockhart (AWCMEE),
Dr Steve Wagstaff (Landcare Research)
Dr Matt Mcglone (Landcare Research)


With acceptance of Alfred Wegeners' theory of the "Kontinentaldrift" in the 1960's, the distribution of certain Southern Hemisphere plant species has become iconic for ancient Gondwanan relationships that reach back into the Cretaceous. Many New Zealand plants, like the ratites and tuatara are thought of as having been passive passengers on a "Moa's arc" that rafted away from other Gondwanan landmasses. Nevertheless, despite this prevailing view, palynological and DNA evidence has raised the possibility, that many New Zealand species reached their oceanic island-like archipelago relatively recently by long-distance dispersal, and not by continental drift. I am currently testing this hypothesis for plant species with ancient fossil records in New Zealand (Nothofagus, Agathis, Ascarina). To do this I am sequencing a large section of the chloroplast genome in different species and making comparative analyses using molecular clock methods. I am also developing PCR primers specific for plant genera that are indicator species in different plant communities. These primers will be used to test soils and investigate whether or not DNA forensic methods can be used to help understand how plant communities have evolved in the past with global climate change.