Island populations are of interest for their differentiation as well as their species diversity; some of the earliest biological interest in islands was concerned with the number of ‘endemics’ thereon. There is dispute about the long-term evolutionary importance of island forms, but they are rich sources of data for studying the under-exploited interface of genetics, ecology and physiology. Differentiation of island populations may arise from genetic change after isolation, or from the chance collection of alleles carried by the colonizing group itself. The general reduction of genetic variance in island populations compared to continental forms of the same species suggests that founder events have played a major role in the formation of most island forms. However, there is ample evidence of adaptation in island populations despite this lower variation; this is relevant when using island biology as a base for the deriving of rules for genetic conservation.