A unified model of island biogeography sheds light on the zone of radiation


  • James Rosindell,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK
    2. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, USA
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  • Albert B. Phillimore

    1. Division of Biology, Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Ascot, Berkshire, UK
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Ecology letters (2011) 14: 552–560


Islands acquire species through immigration and speciation. Models of island biogeography should capture both processes; however quantitative island biogeography theory has either neglected speciation or treated it unrealistically. We introduce a model where the dominance of immigration on small and near islands gives way to an increasing role for speciation as island area and isolation increase. We examine the contribution of immigration and speciation to the avifauna of 35 archipelagoes and find, consistent with our model, that the zone of radiation comprises two regions: endemic species diverged from mainland sister-species at intermediate isolation and from insular sister-species at higher levels of isolation. Our model also predicts species–area curves in accord with existing research and makes new predictions about species ages and abundances. We argue that a paucity of data and theory on species abundances on isolated islands highlights the need for island biogeography to be reconnected with mainstream ecology.