Madagascar’s biodiversity boom has slowed

Madagascar is famous for its dazzling biodiversity, but a new study suggests that the formation of new species has declined.

Almost 3 percent of the planet’s animal and plant species live in Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa. “The evolutionary origins of Madagascar’s biodiversity remain mysterious,” writes researcher Daniel Scantlebury of the University of Rochester, New York, in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Some scientists believe that species formation tapered off after an initial explosion, while others suggest the creation of new animal species has continued apace.

Scantlebury analyzed evolutionary data on seven groups of reptiles and amphibians in Madagascar, including leaf chameleons, reed frogs, and day geckos. He concluded that the rate of diversification has dropped in those groups, and the island is no longer churning out new fauna as quickly as it once did. The results suggest that Madagascar’s reptiles and amphibians are “relatively ancient species,” he writes. Roberta Kwok | 9 July 2013

Source: Scantlebury, D.P. 2013. Diversification rates have declined in the Malagasy herpetofauna. Proceedings of the Royal Society B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1109.

Image © Maisna | Shutterstock

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