islands are excellent systems for allowing biologists to test evolutionary
hypotheses due to their relative simplicity of habitats, naturally replicated
study design and high levels of endemic taxa with conspicuous variation in
form, colour and behaviour. Over the last two decades the Canary Islands
archipelago has proved an ideal system for evolutionary biologists who seek to
unravel how biodiversity arises and disappears. In this review we have
evaluated the contribution of the study of Canarian birds to our understanding
of how and why species occur and change over time. We focus our attention on
both extant and extinct Canarian taxa, and describe how research on these
species has filled gaps in our understanding of avian speciation and extinction.
In addition, we discuss the necessity of revising the current taxonomy in the
Canarian avian taxa, especially the status of the endemic subspecies, some of
which might be better treated as full species. An accurate classification of
Canarian birds is not only necessary for testing evolutionary, biogeographic
and ecological hypotheses, but also for effective decision making about
conservation and environmental management. Finally we introduce future avenues
of research that we feel will yield the most exciting and promising findings on
island evolution in the coming years.
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