Record Details

Hedrick, Philip W
Galapagos Islands endemic vertebrates: a population genetics perspective
Journal of Heredity
Journal Article
Amblyrhynchus cristatus;Conolophus marthae
The organisms of the Galapagos Islands played a central role in the development of the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin. Examination of the population genetics factors of many of these organisms with modern molecular methods has expanded our understanding of their evolution. Here, I provide a perspective on how selection, gene flow, genetic drift, mutation, and inbreeding have contributed to the evolution of 6 iconic Galapagos species: flightless cormorant, pink iguana, marine iguana, Galapagos hawk, giant tortoises, and Darwin’s finches. Because of the inherent biological differences among these species that have colonized the Galapagos, different population genetic factors appear to be more or less important in these different species. For example, the Galapagos provided novel environments in which strong selection took place and the Darwin’s finches diversified to produce new species and the cormorant adapted to the nutrient-rich western shores of the Galapagos by losing its ability to fly and genomic data have now identified candidate genes. In both the pink iguana, which exists in one small population, and the Galapagos hawk, which has small population sizes, genetic drift has been potentially quite important. There appears to be very limited interisland gene flow in the flightless cormorant and the Galapagos hawk. On the other hand, both the marine iguana and some of the Darwin’s finches appear to have significant interisland gene flow. Hybridization between species and subspecies has also introduced new adaptive variation, and in some cases, hybridization might have resulted in despeciation. Overall, new population genetics and genomics research has provided additional insight into the evolution of vertebrate species in the Galapagos.