George K. Roderick and Rosemary G. Gillespie
University of California, Berkeley
Studies of insects have played a major role in the general understanding of the biota of islands, touching on all areas of biogeography, ecology, evolution, and conservation. The notable writings of Darwin and Wallace were influenced heavily by the biological diversity that each witnessed on islands and by the processes inferred to underlie that diversity. Rather more recently, studies exploiting the discrete nature of islands have given rise to pervasive organizing theories of community ecology, in particular MacArthur and Wilson's equilibrium theory of island biogeography (ETIB). With the advent of accessible molecular genetic tools, research on islands has allowed unique insights into the processes that generate biotic diversity, especially the mechanisms of speciation. Unfortunately, islands are also prime targets for biological invasions, mediated largely by anthropogenic disturbance. The severity of such impacts on island biotas may result from their evolution in isolation, but it is certainly compounded by their characteristically small population sizes. Yet, for many islands extinction among arthropods is largely unknown, although this circumstance may be attributable more to lack of knowledge than to any innate security that arthropods might possess. Indeed, it is likely that many island arthropods will go extinct before they have been collected and described.
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