The Birds of Northern Melanesia: Speciation, Ecology, and Biogeography

Hardcover | November 15, 2001

byErnst Mayr, Jared Diamond

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Speciation is the process by which co-existing daughter species evolve from one ancestral species - e.g., humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas arising from a common ancestor around 5,000,000 years ago. However, many questions about speciation remain controversial. The Birds of Northern Melanesiaprovides by far the most comprehensive study yet available of a rich fauna, composed of the 195 breeding land and fresh-water bird species of the Bismarck and Solomon Archipelagoes east of New Guinea. This avifauna offers decisive advantages for understanding speciation, and includes famous examplesof geographic variation discussed in textbooks of evolutionary biology. The book results from 30 years of collaboration between the evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr and the ecologist Jared Diamond. It shows how Northern Melanesian bird distributions provide snapshots of all stages in speciation, from the earliest (widely distributed species without geographicvariation) to the last (closely related, reproductively isolated species occurring sympatrically and segregating ecologically). The presentation emphasizes the wide diversity of speciation outcomes, steering a middle course between one-model-fits-all simplification and ungeneralizable speciesaccounts. Questions illuminated include why some species are much more prone to speciate than others, why some water barriers are much more effective at promoting speciation than others, and whether hypothesized taxon cycles, faunal dominance, and legacies of Pleistocene land bridges are real. These years of study have resulted in a huge database, complete with distributions of all 195 species on 76 islands, together with their taxonomy, colonization routes, ecological attributes, abundance, and overwater dispersal. Color plates depict 88 species and allospecies, many of which have neverbeen seen before. For students of speciation, Northern Melanesian birds now constitute a model system against which other biotas can be compared. For population biologists interested in other problems besides speciation, this rich database can now be mined for insights.

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Speciation is the process by which co-existing daughter species evolve from one ancestral species - e.g., humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas arising from a common ancestor around 5,000,000 years ago. However, many questions about speciation remain controversial. The Birds of Northern Melanesiaprovides by far the most comprehensive study...

Ernst Mayr is at Harvard University. Jared Diamond is at UCLA Medical Center.

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Format:HardcoverPublished:November 15, 2001Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195141709

ISBN - 13:9780195141702

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Table of Contents

Origins and AcknowledgementsIntroductionPart 1. Northern Melanesia's Physical and Biological Environment1. Geology and geological history2. Climate3. Habitats and vegetation4. Terrestrial vertebrates other than birdsPart 2. Human History and Impacts5. Human history6. Ornithological exploration of Northern Melanesia7. Exterminations of bird populationsPart 3. The Northern Melanesia Avifauna8. Family composition9. Determinants of island species number10. Level of endemism, habitat preference, and abundance of each species11. Overwater dispersal ability of each species12. Distributional ecologyPart 4. Colonization Routes13. Proximate origins of Northern Melanesian populations14. Upstream colonization and faunal dominance15. Ultimate origins of Northern Melanesian populationsPart 5. Taxonomic Analysis: Differences among Species16. The problem of speciation17. Stages of geographic speciation among the birds of Northern Melanesia18. Absence of geographic variation19. Geographic variation: subspecies20. Geographic variation: megasubspecies21. Geographic variation: allospecies22. Complete speciation23. Hybridization24. Endemic species and generaPart 6. Geographical Analysis: Differences among Islands25. Endemism index26. Pair-wise differentiation index27. Pair-wise non-sharing indices: differences in island species compositions28. The establishment of geographic isolates29. Inter-archipelagal barriers30. Barriers within the Bismarcks31. Barriers within the Solomons32. Speciation on fragmented Solomon islands33. Differential extinction and species occurrences on fragmented Pleistocene islandsPart 7. Synthesis, Conclusions, and Prospects34. Conclusions about speciation35. Species differences: taxon cycles, and the evolution of dispersal36. Promising directions for future researchMapsAppendicesReferencesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"This definitive volume will inspire a new set of studies based on genetics and DNA, before too many of the unique island forms disappear. It will remain the ultimate work on island speculation." -- The Quarterly Review of Biology