Nature Publishing Group, publisher of Nature, and other science journals and reference works
my account e-alerts subscribe register
Sunday 24 September 2017
Journal Home
Current Issue
Download PDF
Export citation
Export references
Send to a friend
More articles like this

Letters to Nature
Nature 264, 745 - 746 (23 December 1976); doi:10.1038/264745a0

Geography and dispersal of Galapagos Islands vascular plants


Department of Biology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061

NEARLY every naturalist who has dealt, with the Galapagos Islands since Darwin1 has pointed out the flora's obvious geographical affinities with tropical America, stressing relationships with South America, Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. But as the tropical American flora has become better known, most Galapagos species once thought to be only Mexican, Central American or West Indian in their extra-Galapagean distributions also have been found to occur in northern and western tropical South America (for example, the widespread Zanthoxylum fagara (L.) Sarg., Rutaceae) or to have been incorrectly identified (for example, the endemic Chamaesyce viminea (Hook, f.) Burch, Euphorbiaceae). Svenson2 first indicated the flora's lack of affinity with Mexico and Central America. The study reported here is the first to present evidence that West Indian relationships do not exist. After publication of the Flora of the Galapagos Islands 3 and several subsequent papers4–12, it is now also possible to quantify the geographical relationships of the vascular flora and to study the plants' dispersal mechanisms. This study shows the flora's relationships to be with adjacent South America and and that birds have had the most important role in plant dispersal to the islands.



1. Darwin, C., Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle, Between the years 1826 and 1836, Describing Their Examination of the Globe, 3, Journal and Remarks, 1832–1836 (Colburn, London, 1839).
2. Svenson, H. K., Am. J. Bot., 22, 208–277 (1935).
3. Wiggins, I. L., and Porter, D. M., Flora of the Galapagos Islands (Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1971).
4. Eliasson, U., Bot. Notiser, 123, 346–357 (1970).
5. Eliasson, U., Bot. Notiser, 125, 320–322 (1972).
6. Eliasson, U., Op. bot. Soc. bot. Lund., 36, 1–117 (1974).
7. Schofield, E. K., Biol. Conserv., 5, 48–51 (1973).
8. Weber, D., Bull. Soc. neuchâtel. Sci. nat., 96, 17–30 (1973).
9. Hamann, O., Bot. Notiser, 127, 245–251 (1974).
10. Hamann, O., Bot. Notiser., 127, 252–255 (1974).
11. Hamann, O., Bot. Notiser., 127, 309–316 (1974).
12. Wiggins, I. L., Madroño, 23, 62–64 (1975).
13. Carlquist, S., Bull. Torrey bot. Club., 94, 129–162 (1967).
14. Carlquist, S., Island Biology (Columbia University Press, New York 1974).
15. Hooker, J. D., Trans. Linn. Soc., Lond., 20, 235–262 (1847).
16. Robinson, B. L., Proc. Am. Acad. Arts Sci., 38, 77–269 (1902).
17. Stewart, A., Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci., Ser. 4, 1, 7–288 (1911).
18. Stewart, A., Pl. Wld., 18, 192–200 (1915).
19. Thornton, I., Darwin's Islands, A Natural History of the Galapagos (Natural History Press, New York, 1971).
20. Harris, M., A Field to the Birds of Galapagos (Collins, London, 1974).
21. Agassiz, A., Bull. Mus. comp. Zool. Harv., 23, 1–89 (1892).
22. Beebe, W., The Arcturus Adventure (Putnam, New York, 1926).
23. Townsend, C. H., Bull. N. Y. zool. Soc., 31, 148–168 (1928).
24. Fitz-Roy, R., Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle, 2, Proceedings of the Second Expedition, 1831–1836, Under the Command of Captain Robert Fitz-Roy, R. N. (Colburn, London, 1839).
25. Johnson, M. P., and Raven, P. H., Science, 179, 893–895 (1972).
26. Eckhardt, R. C., BioScience, 22, 585–590 (1972).
27. Porter, D. M., BioScience, 23, 276 (1973).
28. Hamann, O., Biol. Conserv., 7, 37–59 (1975).
29. Bailey, K., Science, 192, 465–467 (1976).
30. Fosberg, F. R., in Insects of Hawaii, 1 (edit. by Zimmerman, E. C.) (University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1948).

© 1976 Nature Publishing Group
Privacy Policy