04 June 2009

Moscow bound!

Yes I am off to Moscow. Idaho! The annual Evolution conference is being held there this year. The conference is always a great event for members of the societies that produce the journals Systematic Biology, Evolution and American Naturalist. Usually there is a great New Zealand turn-out (indeed NZ was 'rewarded' in 2006 by hosting this conference in Christchurch). Indeed, in the biogeography session I am speaking alongside Marty Kennedy (University of Otago) and Thomas Buckley (Landcare Research). And what am I speaking on? Drowning Zealandia, colonizing the Chathams: The role of overwater dispersal in the biogeography of New Zealand.

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The talk will look at our recent research on the flora and fauna of the Chatham Islands archipelago. In particular, I will report on the patterns that we have found by looking at about 40 endemic plant taxa and their closest relatives outside of the Chathams. The majority of endemics do not seem to differ from their mainland relatives and those that do seem relatively recent arrivals, well within the last 2-3 million years that geology tells us is when the Chathams emerged from the ocean. Another chunk of research on dune insects finds similar results. Both data sets also imply that the South Island is a major source for Chatham lineages. The Chatham's biota ends up being a fascinating data set on over-water dispersal and colonisation. There is plenty more to tell, but that can wait for a future blog.

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