A natural laboratory…

Bernieria by Kayleigh Kueffner

Madagascar is a region of exceptional species richness, and an ideal natural laboratory for investigating the processes of diversification. Recent advances in genomic sequencing technology, phylogenetic comparative methods, and the availability of large-scale environmental and ecological data, have made possible new approaches to understanding the production of biodiversity. Our research in Madagascar integrates genomic, phenotypic and environmental data to understand the origins and evolutionary history of the island’s endemic bird fauna.

Helmet Vanga (Euryceros prevostii) by Josh Engel of Redhill Birding

Madagascar is home to several endemic radiations of birds, most notable the Vangas (Vangidae) and Malagasy Warblers (Bernieridae). The Vangas are a remarkable example of adaptive radiation, with a single ancestor giving rise to a diverse range of morphologies adapted to different ecological niches. The disparity of this family rivals that of other classic examples of adaptive radiation, such as Darwin’s finches. Our research on Madagascar’s radiations aims to understand how this incredible diversity was generated, by comparing and contrasting the diversification dynamics of different lineages. This research is an ongoing collaboration with Sushma Reddy of the University of Minnesota.