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Evolution on Islands: Originating from Contributions to a Discussion Meeting of the Royal Society of London (Linguistics; 11) Paperback – 1 Feb 1998


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  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (1 Feb 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198501714
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198501718
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 15.6 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,760,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Islands are convenient models for scientists investigating evolutionary processes because they are testing grounds for evolution. And now, as the world's species and populations become increasingly fragmented and/or isolated as a result of human activity, information gleaned from evolutionary studies on islands will be vital in informing conservation and management decisions. However, it may come as a surprise to some that in evolutionary biology the term `island' is used to describe any area or patch of habitat that has become geographically isolated and not just volcanic land formations over oceanic hotspots or fragments cut off from continents due to fluctuating sea levels. So, alongside chapters on the intriguing evolutionary radiations of the Hawaiian (Drosophila, lobeliads, honeycreepers) and the Caribbean (anoline lizards) Islands, there are others considering the speciation of rock-dwelling cichlids in Lake Tanganyika and vegetational islands in the Amazon Basin. As a result of this flexibility island evolution remains one of biology's most enduring paradigms.
This extremely varied and comprehensive volume was just about the first to focus exclusively on the evolutionary processes that occur on islands. It consists of a series of chapters (most published elsewhere but modified for this book)) authored by the leading experts in the field and is aimed at fellow biologists. Some of the concepts are intellectually challenging, even for those working in the evolutionary arena, as is evidenced by the number of controversies that have arisen through misinterpretation or misunderstanding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
As testing grounds for evolution islands remain the classic models for scientists investigating evolutionary processes 2 Sep 2009
By Trevor Coote - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Islands are convenient models for scientists investigating evolutionary processes because they are testing grounds for evolution. And now, as the world's species and populations become increasingly fragmented and/or isolated as a result of human activity, information gleaned from evolutionary studies on islands will be vital in informing conservation and management decisions. However, it may come as a surprise to some that in evolutionary biology the term `island' is used to describe any area or patch of habitat that has become geographically isolated and not just volcanic land formations over oceanic hotspots or fragments cut off from continents due to fluctuating sea levels. So, alongside chapters on the intriguing evolutionary radiations of the Hawaiian (Drosophila, lobeliads, honeycreepers) and the Caribbean (anoline lizards) Islands, there are others considering the speciation of rock-dwelling cichlids in Lake Tanganyika and vegetational islands in the Amazon Basin. As a result of this flexibility island evolution remains one of biology's most enduring paradigms.
This extremely varied and comprehensive volume was just about the first to focus exclusively on the evolutionary processes that occur on islands. It consists of a series of chapters (most published elsewhere but modified for this book)) authored by the leading experts in the field and is aimed at fellow biologists. Some of the concepts are intellectually challenging, even for those working in the evolutionary arena, as is evidenced by the number of controversies that have arisen through misinterpretation or misunderstanding. A number of the chapters are contradictory and old debates about the relative importance of genetic drift versus directional selection in island species formation continue to be heatedly discussed, while new disputes such as the role and importance of the founder effect in speciation arise. Despite the temptation for the more mathematically minded theoreticians, pages of differential equations and Greek symbols are excluded from this book. For those laymen who have genuine interest in evolutionary biology a good knowledge of the terminology is required, as well as an awareness of the history of the subject and the main contributors, notably Darwin and Wallace in the nineteenth century and Sewell Wright and Ernst Mayr in the twentieth. Two volumes that would go some way to aiding those with limited knowledge would be John Maynard Smith's standard text Evolutionary Genetics, and the largely non-evolutionary The Theory of Island Biogeography by MacArthur and Wilson.
Since this volume was published there has been an explosion in molecular data and the generation of phylogenetic trees due to the automation of DNA sequencing. This information had contributed greatly to our understanding of historical and genetic processes but there is a caveat. As one group of authors points out in their chapter, these data can be misleading and lead to discordance between morphological and molecular data. This can arise not only as a result of overzealous use or involuntary misapplication but through natural processes such as introgression through hybridization. As such, caution should be exercised when analysing and interpreting molecular data, and it is best used in conjunction with other data. Sadly, there is though still a yawning gap in information from the field and this may now be irreparable as island species are especially vulnerable to extinction through habitat disturbance and destruction, climate change, and the invasion of aggressive, non-discriminatory alien species which constantly arrive due to increasing global traffic.
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