Biodiversity growth on the volcanic ocean islands and the roles of in situ cladogenesis and immigration: case with the reptiles

Jason R. Ali*, Shai Meiri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Models for biodiversity growth on the remote oceanic islands assume that in situ cladogenesis is a major contributor. To test this, we compiled occurrence data for 194 terrestrial reptile species on 53 volcanically-constructed middle- to low-latitude landmasses worldwide. Despite 273 native island-species records, there are only 8–12 cases of the phenomenon, including just two radiations. Diversification frequencies are largely uncorrelated with island area, age, maximum altitude, and isolation. Furthermore, there is no indication that the presence of non-sister congeners on an island stymies the process. Diversity on individual oceanic islands therefore results primarily from immigration and anageneis, but this is not a simple matter. Clusters that are difficult to reach (far or challenging to get to) or thrive upon (e.g. Canaries, Galápagos) have relatively few clades (3–8), some of which have many species (6–14), and all host at least one endemic genus. In these settings, diversity grows mainly by intra-archipelago transfer followed by within-island anagenetic speciation. In contrast, those island groups that are easier to disperse to (characterized by short distances and conducive transit conditions) and harbour more benign habitats (e.g. Comoros, Lesser Antilles) have been settled by many ancestor-colonizers (≥ 14), but each clade has few derived species (≤ 4). These archipelagoes lack especially distinctive lineages. Models explaining the assembly and growth of terrestrial biotic suites on the volcanic ocean islands thus need to accommodate these new insights.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)989-999
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019


  • biodiversity accumulation
  • cladogenesis
  • island biogeography


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