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

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


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Book News Annotation:

Mayr (zoology, Harvard U.) and Diamond (physiology, UCLA) have spent decades studying the birds of the Bismarck and Solomon Archipelagoes. While this volume can be used as a reference for the 195 species, it was written as a database for speciation. The text contains discussion of the physical and biological environment of the area, the history and impact of humans, the characteristics of the bird population, and their colonization routes. From this basis the remainder of the volume is devoted to a taxonomic and geographic analysis. Color plates are included of paintings of each bird by H. Douglas Pratt.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

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





Product Details

Mayr, Ernst
Diamond, Jared
null, Ernst
Mayr, Ernst
null, Jared
Oxford University Press, USA
New York
Papua new guinea
Life Sciences - Evolution
Life Sciences - Zoology - General
Birds & Birdwatching - General
Life Sciences | Vertebrate Zoology | Ornithology
Birds -- Papua New Guinea.
Birds -- Solomon Islands.
Birdwatching Guides
Edition Number:
Edition Description:
Includes bibliographical references (p. ).
Series Volume:
no. 213
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
Professional and scholarly
52 maps and 32 line illus
9.9 x 7.3 x 1.6 in 3.01 lb

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Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Biology » Evolution
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Genetics
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Zoology » General
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Zoology » Ornithology
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Birds » Birdwatching
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Birds » General
Science and Mathematics » Ornithology » General Ornithology and Birding

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