Pub. Date:
Oxford University Press, USA
The Birds of Northern Melanesia: Speciation, Ecology, and Biogeography

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

by Ernst 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 Melanesia provides 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 examples of 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 geographic variation) 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 species accounts. 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 never been 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195141702
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 12/06/2001
Pages: 548
Product dimensions: 7.30(w) x 9.90(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Harvard University

UCLA Medical Center

Table of Contents

Origins and Acknowledgements
Part 1. Northern Melanesia's Physical and Biological Environment
1. Geology and geological history
2. Climate
3. Habitats and vegetation
4. Terrestrial vertebrates other than birds
Part 2. Human History and Impacts
5. Human history
6. Ornithological exploration of Northern Melanesia
7. Exterminations of bird populations
Part 3. The Northern Melanesia Avifauna
8. Family composition
9. Determinants of island species number
10. Level of endemism, habitat preference, and abundance of each species
11. Overwater dispersal ability of each species
12. Distributional ecology
Part 4. Colonization Routes
13. Proximate origins of Northern Melanesian populations
14. Upstream colonization and faunal dominance
15. Ultimate origins of Northern Melanesian populations
Part 5. Taxonomic Analysis: Differences among Species
16. The problem of speciation
17. Stages of geographic speciation among the birds of Northern Melanesia
18. Absence of geographic variation
19. Geographic variation: subspecies
20. Geographic variation: megasubspecies
21. Geographic variation: allospecies
22. Complete speciation
23. Hybridization
24. Endemic species and genera
Part 6. Geographical Analysis: Differences among Islands
25. Endemism index
26. Pair-wise differentiation index
27. Pair-wise non-sharing indices: differences in island species compositions
28. The establishment of geographic isolates
29. Inter-archipelagal barriers
30. Barriers within the Bismarcks
31. Barriers within the Solomons
32. Speciation on fragmented Solomon islands
33. Differential extinction and species occurrences on fragmented Pleistocene islands
Part 7. Synthesis, Conclusions, and Prospects
34. Conclusions about speciation
35. Species differences: taxon cycles, and the evolution of dispersal
36. Promising directions for future research

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