Remarkable new evidence for island radiation in birds


Richard E. Glor, E-mail:


If island biogeography has a sweet spot, it’s where islands generate their own species diversity rather than merely taking on mainland immigrants. In birds and other highly dispersive taxa, however, this ‘zone of radiation’, may be vanishingly small. Darwin’s finches and Hawaiian Honeycreepers are among only a handful of examples of island radiation in birds (Price 2008), suggesting that winged powers of dispersal make sufficient isolation from mainland colonists unlikely, while also hindering speciation within and among isolated islands. Nevertheless, two studies in this issue of Molecular Ecology join a string of other recent analyses suggesting that island radiation in birds remains under-appreciated (see also Moyle et al. 2009; Kisel & Barraclough 2010; Rosindell & Phillimore 2011). Melo et al. (2011) use a phylogenetic analysis of white-eyes on islands in the Gulf of Guinea to identify two previously overlooked island radiations, and reveal replicated adaptive divergence on islands where species occur in pairs. Sly et al. (2011), meanwhile, consider possible explanations for speciation and geographic differentiation within a large island, and find the same type of oceanic barriers that are critical to bird speciation across archipelagos may also contribute to divergence that appears to have occurred within a single island.