Endemism gone wild: Bird evolution in the Gulf of Guinea Islands
The Gulf of Guinea, in west-central Africa, has three oceanic islands: Príncipe, São Tomé and Annobón. Lying on the equator and volcanic in origin, they are characterised by spectacular landscapes – with high mountains, steep cliffs, waterfalls and volcanic plugs – all under a mantle of rainforest. Together they harbour between 29 and 32 endemic bird species in a total area of 1000 square kilometres. This represents the highest concentration of endemic bird species in the world for small oceanic islands. When we walk into the native forests of São Tomé, every single bird species encountered occurs nowhere else. Endemism is high across many other groups, making these islands global conservation hotspots. This talk will present this unique avifauna – which includes giants, dwarves and other strange birds – and will summarise research conducted in the last two decades aiming at unravelling the factors behind such high endemism levels. In doing so it will address Darwin’s “mysteries of mysteries” , the process by which new species are formed.