‘From Wrangel to Flores: size evolution on islands’
(Natural Sciences, Imperial College London)
Abstract: Islands are often portrayed as weird and wonderful places where, free from pressures of factors such as competition and predation, animals can quickly evolve some truly fantastic forms. A key trait that is often said to evolve quickly and drastically on islands is body size, surely among the major determinants of animal life history, physiology, anatomy and ecology. Body size was thought to evolve in a regular fashion on islands, with small animals growing larger while large animals dwarf. This has even led to a notion that medium body sizes, such as those supposedly found on the benign insular environment, is an optimal evolutionary attractor that all life form “aspire” to. Some of my work seem to show, however, that far from a uniform and well predicted response, insularity results in widely divergent trajectories of body size evolution, that differ between different taxa, according to the biology of the focal organism and its interaction with the autecological conditions prevailing on different islands.
Date: 15th January 2008, at 18.00
Location: A V Hill Lecture Theatre, UCL