Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The island rule and its application to multiple plant traits

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posted on 2021-12-07, 17:11 authored by Hendriks, Annemieke

The Island Rule refers to a continuum of body size changes where large mainland species evolve to become smaller and small species evolve to become larger on islands. Previous work focuses almost solely on animals, with virtually no previous tests of its predictions on plants. I tested for (1) reduced floral size diversity on islands, a logical corollary of the island rule and (2) evidence of the Island Rule in plant stature, leaf size and petiole length. Endemic island plants originated from small islands surrounding New Zealand; Antipodes, Auckland, Bounty, Campbell, Chatham, Kermadec, Lord Howe, Macquarie, Norfolk, Snares, Stewart and the Three Kings. I compared the morphology of 65 island endemics and their closest ‘mainland’ relative. Species pairs were identified. Differences between archipelagos located at various latitudes were also assessed. Floral sizes were reduced on islands relative to the ‘mainland’, consistent with predictions of the Island Rule. Plant stature, leaf size and petiole length conformed to the Island Rule, with smaller plants increasing in size, and larger plants decreasing in size. Results indicate that the conceptual umbrella of the Island Rule can be expanded to plants, accelerating understanding of how plant traits evolve on isolated islands.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Ecology and Biodiversity

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Centre for Biodiversity & Restoration of Ecology

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Burns, Kevin