Anna Larsen

Dissertation Summary:

I am investigating the utility of ethnobotanical and genetic data from a human-dispersed plant, Aleurites moluccana (Euphorbiaceae), in the reconstruction of prehistoric human movement in Oceania. The current understanding of the human colonization of the Pacific Islands is derived from congruent patterns in linguistic data, archaeological evidence, genetic motifs in human DNA and the distribution of ethnographically important plants and animals. Although there is agreement among scholars about the overall colonization sequence, many details remain unresolved. Recent conceptual and methodological advances in the analysis of infraspecific genetic data have facilitated the use of data from human-commensal organisms to address unresolved issues in Oceanic prehistory.

In addition, I am using morphological and molecular data to determine the evolutionary relationships in the Aleuritinae, the clade that subsumes A. moluccana. The subtribe is distributed through Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Australia and Oceania and the species have distinguished economic and cultural importance throughout the regions. I am comparing the results from various phylogenetic methods as well as the relative robustness of various data sets