BIOGEOGRAPHY

Economic isolation limits biodiversity

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Science  03 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6205, pp. 51
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6205.51-h

It's an ecological truism that the more isolated an island, the fewer species it will have; isolation (along with island size) is thought to influence colonization, extinction, and speciation. But Helmus et al., mapping the distribution of anole lizard species across the Caribbean, suggest that economic, not geographic, isolation is determining species diversity. Anole lizards hitch rides on cargo ships, making it easier to reach farflung islands, so the more trade an island participates in, the more species diversity it tends to have. Conversely, economic isolation might protect native lizards from imported competitors: Cuba would rapidly gain 1.65 lizard species if the United States lifted its trade embargo, the authors say.

Nature 10.1038/nature13739 (2014).

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