Dispersal and speciation of skinks among archipelagos in the tropical Pacific Ocean

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We examined the potential effects of geography on the distribution and speciation of skinks on tropical Pacific archipelagos. The entire tropical Pacific skink fauna was divided into continental (found also in continental areas), Pacific (endemic to the study area but found within more than one archipelago) and endemic (found within only one archipelago) species categories. The number and proportion of skinks within each species category were determined for each of the 27 archipelagos in the study area. Nine geographic variables reflecting archipelago size, isolation and elevation were estimated for each archipelago. Principal components analysis was used to reduce the nine variables to three uncorrelated composite variables that were interpreted as representing archipelago size, isolation and elevation. Numbers and proportions of skinks in each category within an archipelago were related to the composite geographic variables using multiple linear regression analysis. Archipelago size and isolation were important predictors of both skink diversity and endemism. Results were then compared to diversity and endemism of birds within the study area. Skinks showed an archipelago-wide level of endemism similar to that of birds. On an archipelago by archipelago basis, however, large differences between birds and skinks were evident. In particular, the New Caledonia skink fauna was much more endemic than that of birds. The bird faunas of Hawaii and the Marquesas were nearly completely endemic, while no endemic skinks occurred in these two archipelagos. These differences presumably reflect the relative dispersal powers of skinks and birds and, consequently, rates of colonization and speciation. Differences may also be due partly to morphological conservatism among isolated skink populations and the occurrence of cryptic species that have not yet been identified as separate species. The discovery of such cryptic species, however, is unlikely to increase the endemic skink fauna of Hawaii and other distant archipelagos to a level commensurate with that of birds. Differences in endemism between skinks and birds may also be due to unknown local ecological interactions. © 1995 Chapman & Hall.

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Evolutionary Ecology

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