What are we learning about speciation and extinction from the Canary Islands?

Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13157/arla.63.1.2016.rp1

Authors: Juan Carlos ILLERA, Lewis G. SPURGIN, Eduardo RODRIGUEZ-EXPOSITO, Manuel NOGALES and Juan Carlos RANDO

E-mail: illerajuan@uniovi.es / jcillera@gmail.com

Published: Volume 63.1, June 2016. Pages 15-34.

Language: English

Keywords: island diversification, island evolution, island phylogeography, island Quaternary fossil record, Macaronesia and oceanic islands


Oceanic 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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