The butterflies and birds of Madeira and La Gomera: taxon cycles and human influence

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Abstract

Analyses of the habitat distributions and densities of Madeiran and La Gomeran butterflies and birds are used to test the predictions of the taxon cycle hypothesis. The predictions are as follows: recent colonists should occupy more habitats and be found at higher densities than endemic species or sub-species; colonists should predominate in the marginal habitats on the islands.

The distributions of Madeiran and La Gomeran birds and butterflies do not conform to those predicted by the taxon cycle. Neither do the densities of the bird and butterfly species on either island. There is some evidence that recent colonizers occupy marginal habitats but we suggest that it is difficult to draw conclusions when man has greatly influenced the nature of the islands' habitats.

Ancillary