Bongo for Bird Biogeography

| 17 Comments

Check out this: “Backtracking Birds Show Islands are not Evolutionary Dead End” on the blog A Scientific Life (or Scientist, Interrupted), aka girlscientist.blogspot.com. The post reports on a paper on bird biogeography published in Nature, “Single origin of a pan-Pacific bird group and upstream colonization of Australasia.” The main point of the paper is that the biogeogaphy of a group of pacific island monarchs is not a simple matter of flow from the continental source to the island sink; instead, there has been some back-and-forth over the last few million years.

This spiffy map overlays the phylogeny and the biogeography.

It is interesting that despite all the hop-scotching about, there is still (intuitively) a pretty significant correlation between phylogenetic relationship and geographic proximity).

I think this kind of study hints that a real revolution in biogeography is coming. Imagine if you were to do this study not just on one bird group, but on all the lineages you could get your hands on, say, 50 different groups, each with representatives on some of the islands. Clearly there would be a lot of “noise” as different groups dispersed in different directions. But you might start to really be able to get a quantiative handle on the long-standing questions in biogeography – dispersal vs. vicariance, speciation in situ vs. ecological invasion, and whether or not “centers of distribution” really are species factories, or just temporary ecological assemblages. Hmm, sounds like a PhD project. Anyone know a good program, probably an evolution program, where a guy like me could do not just phylogeography on one group, but what I hereby dub “comprehensive phylogeography”? (Preferrably on plants. Plants are cool.)

17 Comments

Don’t forget; the islands of the south Pacific Ocean have experienced many MANY extinctions as people moved across the oceans and colonized these islands, eating everything in sight, destroying habitats and infesting these islands with their domestic animals and plants. So the picture we see is a very small glimpse of the true story, which is much richer than we can document at this time.

The University of Washington Biology Department would be a good choice. There is a very strong evolution group, lots of people doing phylogeography and the real kicker: The Burke Museum which has a huge collection of birds. Highly recommended.

hmm, speaking of extinction events, how would sudden extinction and recolonization of an island near a mainlaind affect the results of the study in question?

say one of the islands in question had it’s entire flora and fauna wiped out by ash from a nearby volcanic eruption, then was recolonized from the mainland.

Nick,

You don’t need to look for a department but for a specific PI, preferably one with money so you can do the project you’re interested in. One option is to find a new professor who has startup funds. I’ll ask my plant friends if they have any recommendations for plant phylogeography.

hmm, speaking of extinction events, how would sudden extinction and recolonization of an island near a mainlaind affect the results of the study in question?

say one of the islands in question entire flora and fauna wiped out by ash from a nearby volcanic eruption, then was recolonized from the mainland

dave, your post appears to be incomplete. could you repost please?

The revolution is aleady here!

There’s lots of this stuff going on: I was language checking a manuscript this afternoon that was doing something similar in sticklebacks. I don’t follow this literature (except when it’s written in Finglish), but there’s a lot of it about. My advice would be to try and find yourself a good group doing interesting stuff.

Bob

Dave L; Rob says

Extinction is always a big concern when studying island taxa, especially in the Pacific. While we can never reconstruct extinction events (unless we are lucky enough to find fossils), a recent re-colonization from the mainland would leave the pattern of continental and island forms sister to each other.

a recent re-colonization from the mainland would leave the pattern of continental and island forms sister to each other.

actually, that was my question, and thanks, that answered it quite nicely.

cheers

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on November 13, 2005 12:19 PM.

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