Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Darwin's finches have reached their limits on the Galápagos

23.06.2015

The evolution of birds on the Galápagos Islands, the cradle of Darwin's theory of evolution, is a two-speed process. Most bird species are still diversifying, while the famous Darwin's finches have already reached an equilibrium, in which new species can only appear when an existing one becomes extinct. This finding expands the classical theory on island evolution put forward in the 1960s. The study is published online on June 23 in Ecology Letters.

Islands are seen as natural laboratories for the study of evolution. They form isolated ecosystems with barriers to migration. Classical Island Theory predicts that a dynamic equilibrium will occur between immigration and extinction of species. Recent theory adds that as species diversity increases, ever more ecological niches become occupied, which has a negative effect on immigration (new immigrants from outside of the Galápagos cannot settle) and diversification (radiation into new species is blocked).


This is a small Galápagos ground finch (Geospiza fuliginosa), Pinta Island, Galápagos. There is no more room for new species on the Galápagos islands, unless one of the existing species becomes extinct.

Credit: Ruben Heleno

Evolutionary dynamics

'However, this has never been tested in detail, for lack of data and the right analytical tools', explains Rampal Etienne, Associate Professor of Theoretical and Evolutionary Community Ecology at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Together with Luis Valente (University of Potsdam, Germany) and Albert Phillimore (University of Edinburgh, UK), he developed DAISIE, a mathematical model that uses phylogenetic data on living species to reconstruct evolutionary dynamics. DAISIE stands for Dynamic Assembly of Islands by Speciation, Immigration and Extinction, and was named after famous radiations of daisy-like plants on Hawaii.

DAISIE was fed with the phylogenetic trees of existing bird species on the Galápagos Islands. These were constructed with genomic data that has become available in recent years. DAISIE then estimates diversity limits and rates of immigration, speciation and extinction per lineage.

'The analysis shows that for the finches, diversity does indeed have a negative effect. There is no more room for new species, unless one of the existing species becomes extinct, so the islands are saturated regarding finch-type species', Etienne explains. This does not mean the radiation is static. 'We found that the rates of both evolution and extinction are very high for Darwin's finches. That is probably why these birds have reached an equilibrium.'

Isolated ecosystems

Other species like mockingbirds have not yet reached equilibrium, which contrasts sharply with the current view that oceanic islands are at equilibrium. 'Our data shows that they are evolving more slowly and are still diversifying.' In a million years or so, more mockingbird species may have appeared - granted that conditions on the islands remain the same.

The study shows that the DAISIE model - which the authors have made available as a library* in the free and widely used R software environment - is a valuable tool for the study of evolutionary dynamics on islands. It includes speciation and thus extends existing island theory, which is based on immigration and extinction. Etienne: 'And of course, it works for all isolated ecosystems, not just islands but also lakes or mountain tops.'

Apart from explaining evolutionary history, DAISIE also predicts future diversity. 'This could be interesting from a conservation point of view: we are not just conserving existing species, but also future diversity.'

###

*Link to the DAISIE programme: http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/DAISIE/index.html

Rene Fransen | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Evolutionary Groningen ecosystems equilibrium isolated new species species

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists team up on study to save endangered African penguins
16.11.2017 | Florida Atlantic University

nachricht Climate change: Urban trees are growing faster worldwide
13.11.2017 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Corporate coworking as a driver of innovation

22.11.2017 | Business and Finance

PPPL scientists deliver new high-resolution diagnostic to national laser facility

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>