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Explaining adaptive shifts in body size on islands: a life history approach


E. P. Palkovacs, Dept of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale Univ., 165 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06520-8106, USA (


The tendency for island populations to differ in body size from their mainland relatives has been well documented, but the mechanisms for these size changes remain speculative. Explanations have typically been based on ecological interactions that directly favor either an increase or decrease in body size. While it is clear that direct ecological interactions can influence body size, life history shifts present an alternative explanation for observed insular size trends across phylogenetic groups and trophic levels. Here I describe how decreased resource availability and reduced predation pressure, the same selective forces invoked by previous hypotheses, can operate to produce body size changes via the evolution of life history traits. This mechanism is more generally applicable than previous explanations and is consistent with much of the available data.