Evolution on Islands

Biogeography, contrary to what readers of Explore Evolution might think, encompasses more than just adaptive radiation on islands. Studying the biogepgraphic effects of rivers and mountain ranges also informs our understanding of evolution. Our understanding of relationships between distantly related groups is often informed by comparing the distributions of modern species and their fossil ancestors with our understanding of continental drift. Such comparisons allow scientists to predict the whereabouts of important fossils and to trace back the distant shared ancestry of modern groups.

Explore Evolution never discusses plate tectonics and its impacts on biogeographic study, and in some cases erroneously dismisses common ancestry based on the current distribution of continents. For the most part, the book focuses on the rapid diversification seen on many isolated island populations, but wrongly claims that evolution in these adaptive radiations has produced no novelties, and only represent loss of genetic information. In fact, studies on islands show the evolution of novel anatomical structures and complex adaptations to new ecological niches.

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