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

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2001 Hardcover New 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, r Read more Show Less

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Clearly, The Birds of Northern Melanesia represents a labor of love by the authors, who sink their teeth into a rich subject. In doing so, they follow the analytic approach that they have previously shown to be so productive." — Bruce M. Beehler, Science

"Summarizing data from hundreds of biologists working in Northern Melanesia for more than a century, the authors completely revise the taxonomy of the region's birds, and include no fewer than 128 pages of tables, maps and appendices. Their book constitutes a compendium and analysis of data on the degree of taxonomic distinction of every species and every island population, their ecological and biogeographic attributes, and the sources of the colonists."—Nature

"In this landmark book, two of the world's most distinguished biologists shine a spotlight on one of the most fascinating aspects of evolution. ... no one is better qualified than the two authors to address this subject area. ... Their detailed data set makes this book of huge importance to ecologists, biogeographers and population biologists, as well as those studying speculation."—New Scientist

"This book may come to be regarded as the single most important publication on evolutionary biology since Darwin's (1859) momentous treatise On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Two of the most powerful intellects in zoology today, Mayr and Diamond, have collaborated to produce an exceptional book of far-reaching importance. This work greatly extends our understanding of the processes of avian biogeography and evolution. Here at last we have a holistic study of an entire avian community that provides a template for hall future studies. Furthermore, it underscores the value of faunistic studies, which unfortunately have become increasingly unfashionable. ... Both Mayr and Diamond have an unrivalled experience of Melanesian birds, both in the field and museum. Consequently, this is not just a theoretical book written from the safety of the laboratory or armchair. These guys really know their subject."—K.David Bishop, Standford University and Kincumber, NSW

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195141702
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/2001
  • Pages: 548
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Harvard University

UCLA Medical Center

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Table of Contents

Origins and Acknowledgements
Introduction
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
Maps
Appendices
References
Index

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