Social Behavior on Islands

  • Robert A. Wallace
Part of the Perspectives in Ethology book series (PEIE, volume 3)


Islands have been called natural biological laboratories—places where one can find numerous experiments in progress at any time. These experiments have rarely been of human design but that is of no matter. We are free to make certain assumptions about the nature of the experiment and then to monitor the results. The results have, in sum, provided us with a fortunate view of the mechanisms of natural selection. It should be noted that we really don’t know much about islands and how they vary from the mainlands and from each other, but we do have a certain working knowledge of certain aspects of their ecology. This information is now beginning to furnish us with a certain insight regarding the influence of environmental factors on behavior, but perhaps the most neglected of these considerations is how the peculiar nature of the island environment can affect social behavior. It is part of the larger question of how the environment can mold social systems, producing parallel evolution and thus attesting to the pervasiveness and intensity of the environmental influence. The goal of this paper is to focus attention on this neglect and to illustrate a few of the ways that the study can begin to proceed. It is first necessary to establish the nature of the island niche.


Social Behavior Bird Species Sexual Dimorphism Food Species Character Displacement 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert A. Wallace
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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