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Keywords:

  • Body mass;
  • conspecific tolerance;
  • ectotherms;
  • endotherms;
  • faunal dispersal;
  • faunal persistence;
  • flightlessness;
  • oceanic islands;
  • rate of metabolism;
  • resource availability;
  • supertramps;
  • torpor

Abstract

The characteristics of terrestrial vertebrates on oceanic islands are examined. They often include a reduced body size, a tolerance of conspecifics, flightlessness, a reduced basal rate of metabolism, and a propensity to enter torpor. On oceanic islands ectotherms frequently replace endotherms. These changes reduce the energy expenditure and resource requirements of vertebrates. Such reductions are permitted by the absence of mammalian predators and facilitate the survival of island endemics in the face of a restricted resource base and a variable environment through an increase in population size. Some insular species increase body size, but this occurs only when the resource base is large, due either to a fortuitously abundant resource, or to the absence of other species that exploit normally abundant resources. Some questions are posed to guide future work. They examine of the characteristics that permit species to disperse over water barriers, the conditions that require a reduction in resource use, the rapidity of response by immigrants to island conditions, whether supertramps show physiological differentiation with respect to island distance or size, and whether island size is absolute or relative to the size of the immigrants.