Island biogeography is one of the most powerful subdisciplines of ecology: its mathematical predictions that island size and distance to mainland determine diversity have withstood the test of time. A key question is whether these predictions follow at a population-genomic level. Using rigorous ancient-DNA protocols, we retrieved approximately 1,000 genomic markers from approximately 100 historic specimens of two Southeast Asian songbird complexes from across the Sunda Shelf archipelago collected 1893-1957. We show that the genetic affinities of populations on small shelf islands defy the predictions of geographic distance and appear governed by Earth-historic factors including the position of terrestrial barriers (paleo-rivers) and persistence of corridors (Quaternary land bridges). Our analyses suggest that classic island-biogeographic predictors may not hold well for population-genomic dynamics on the thousands of shelf islands across the globe, which are exposed to dynamic changes in land distribution during Quaternary climate change.
- Quaternary glacial cycles
- ancient DNA