Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 598–617 | Cite as

Population variation and hybridization: Comparison of finches from two archipelagos

  • Peter R. Grant


Some populations of Darwin's Finches (Emberizinae) are exceptionally variable in body size and beak traits as a result of introgressive hybridization. A study of museum specimens of honeycreeper-finches (Carduelinae) from the Hawaiian islands was undertaken to see if the same phenomenon was manifested by a different phyletic group of finches in a different archipelago. Five hundred and twenty-four specimens of the seven species with finch-like bills were measured and their coefficients of variation were compared with those of the ground finch group (six species) of Darwin's Finches. Coefficients were smaller in the Hawaiian finches. Sympatric and, hence, potentially hybridizing species on the island of Hawaii were not consistently more variable than the allopatric species on other islands in the archipelago. The one species with both sympatric and allopatric populations did not show greater variation in the sympatric population. There is little evidence from these comparisons of hybridization occurring in the last 100 years. The difference between the two finch faunas can be explained in terms of two factors. Finches have been present for a longer time in the Hawaiian archipelago than in the Galápagos archipelago and have had more time to not only diversify but to evolve pre- and post-zygotic isolating mechanisms. In the generally less seasonal and floristically richer Hawaiian islands they have evolved greater dietary specializations. Beak traits adapted to specialist feeding may have been under stronger stabilizing selection and hybrids (if formed) may have been at a strong disadvantage in the absence of an ecological niche intermediate between the niches of the two parental species. Results of published electrophoretic studies of genetic variation suggest that the early phase of differentiation, involving occasional introgressive hybridization, may last for up to 5 million years.


Darwin's Finches Hawaiian honeycreeper-finches beak size introgression extinction dietary specialization 


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Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter R. Grant
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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