In evolutionary biology, adaptive radiation is a process in which organisms diversify rapidly from an ancestral species into a multitude of new forms, particularly when a change in the environment makes new resources available, creates new challenges, or opens new environmental niches. Starting with a recent single ancestor, this process results in the speciation and phenotypic adaptation of an array of species exhibiting different morphological and physiological traits. An example of adaptive radiation would be the avian species of the Hawaiian honeycreepers. Via natural selection, these birds adapted rapidly and converged based on the different environments of the Hawaiian islands.
Much research has been done on adaptive radiation due to its dramatic effects on the diversity of a population. However, more research is needed, especially to fully understand the many factors affecting adaptive radiation. Both empirical and theoretical approaches are helpful, though each has its disadvantages. In order to procure the largest amount of data, empirical and theoretical approaches must be united....LESS
Molecular Evolution and Adaptive Radiation surveys recent advances in the study of adaptive radiation by bringing together a set of international experts investigating a wide range of organisms in a variety of geographic settings. Givnish and Sytsma show how family trees derived from molecular characters can be used to analyze the origin and pattern of ecological and morphological diversification within a lineage in a noncircular fashion. They synthesize the recent explosion of research in this area, involving organisms as diverse as epiphytic and terrestrial orchids, water hyacinths, African cichlids, New World monkeys, tropical fruit bats, carnivorous bromeliads, Hawaiian silverswords and fruit flies, North American Daphnia, Caribbean anoles, Canadian sticklebacks, and Australian marsupials. This volume will be of interest to graduate students and professional scientists in ecology, evolutionary biology, systematics, and biogeography.