Speciation and Diversification of Mammals on Islands

Oceanic islands have been recognized as centers of unique biodiversity since before the time of Charles Darwin, and studies on islands have been key to developing our understanding of evolutionary and biogeographic processes.  The mammals of the Philippines are becoming a classic example of diversification, with over 90% of the species on some islands being the product of local speciation, based on extensive recent field and museum studies.  This project aims to investigate genetic divergence within the previously unstudied Bullimus luzonicus, a widespread endemic small mammal on Luzon, the largest of the Philippine islands, in the context of the dynamic geological history of the island. 

Research methods and techniques: REU participants will be introduced to conceptual issues in the evolutionary dynamics of island biogeography.  The participants will produce data in the museum’s molecular genetics lab, and will learn primary techniques for analyzing these data to produce estimates of evolutionary relationships.  The results will be compared to patterns shown by other small mammals, in an effort to detect general biogeographic patterns among species with differing ecologies and histories.

Advisors: Dr. John Bates (Curator, Birds) and Dr. Lawrence Heaney (Curator, Mammals)