Evolutionary assembly of island faunas reverses the classic island-mainland richness difference in Anolis lizards

Adam C. Algar, Jonathan B. Losos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Aim Islands are widely considered to be species depauperate relative to mainlands but, somewhat paradoxically, are also host to many striking adaptive radiations. Here, focusing on Anolis lizards, we investigate if cladogenetic processes can reconcile these observations by determining if in situ speciation can reduce, or even reverse, the classical island-mainland richness discrepancy. Location Caribbean islands and the Neotropical mainland. Methods We constructed range maps for 203 mainland anoles from museum records and evaluated whether geographical area could account for differences in species richness between island and mainland anole faunas. We compared the island species-area relationship with total mainland anole diversity and with the richness of island-sized mainland areas. We evaluated the role of climate in the observed differences by using Bayesian model averaging to predict island richness based on the mainland climate-richness relationship. Lastly, we used a published phylogeny and stochastic mapping of ancestral states to determine if speciation rate was greater on islands, after accounting for differences in geographical area. Results Islands dominated by in situ speciation had, on average, significantly more species than similarly sized mainland regions, but islands where in situ speciation has not occurred were species depauperate relative to mainland areas. Results were similar at the scale of the entire mainland, although marginally non-significant. These findings held even after accounting for climate. Speciation has not been faster on islands; instead, when extinction was assumed to be low, speciation rate varied consistently with geographical area. When extinction was high, there was some evidence that mainland speciation was faster than expected based on area. Main conclusions Our results indicate that evolutionary assembly of island faunas can reverse the general pattern of reduced species richness on islands relative to mainlands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1125-1137
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Anolis
  • Caribbean islands
  • Climate
  • Diversification rate
  • Evolutionary radiation
  • Island biogeography
  • Reptiles
  • Speciation rate
  • Species richness
  • Species-area relationship


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