Island Biology and Speciation

Module code: BS2070

Module co-ordinator: Dr John Bailey

By focussing on island gene pools, including those of Britain and Mallorca, this module addresses the ways in which new species arise and subsequently evolve. We will look at th geographical, ecological and cytological processes associated with speciation, and link these to the phenomena of adaptive radiations and island syndromes. A term-time programme of lectures and practicals is followed by a field course in the Easter vacation, containing about the same number of hours as the term-time course.

Led by Dr RJ Gornall and Dr JP Bailey, the field course is held in Mallorca (Balearic Isles, Spain) where we will study the biodiversity and biogeography of island biota, complementing and illustrating the topics addressed in the term-time course.

Topics covered

  • Island types
  • Geography
  • Speciation
  • Cytological basis of speciation
  • Adaptive radiation
  • Island syndromes
  • Experimental study of breeding systems, pollination biology or genecology. Training is given in experimental design, sampling, methodology and statistical analysis.
  • What endemism can tell us about the origin and evolution of the plants and animals of the Balearic Islands.
  • Study of a selected group of organisms, making detailed observations to produce a data matrix, identification key, and a commentary on isolating mechanisms, hybridisation and genepool differentiation.
  • Study of dioecy in plants.




  • Written exam (60%)
  • Field course reports  (40%)