Recent PhD graduate Katie Langin’s Santa Cruz Island Scrub Jay study makes waves

Posted: February 17th, 2015

Dr. Katie Langin carried out her doctoral research on Santa Cruz Island, one of the Channel Islands off the cost of southern California, studying endemic populations of the Island Scrub Jays.  While island endemics are usually expected to have little genetic diversity, and thus little potential for evolution, she found quite the opposite.  Birds that feed primarily on acorns in oak forests have evolved different beak shapes than those that feed in a broader variety of habitats, like pine forests, as well.

Her work was just published in the journal Evolution, and was featured on CSU’s SOURCE page:  http://source.colostate.edu/csu-study-finds-islands-evolution-within-island/

But further, the work has gotten attention of the media, including a popular article penned by Dr. Langin herself in SLATE:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/wild_things/2015/02/06/santa_cruz_island_scrub_jay_evolution_surprising_biodiversity_in_neighboring.html

Others are in Nature magazine,
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v518/n7537/full/518008a.html

The Economist,

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21643508-californian-island-natural-laboratory-study-speciation-darwins

and Wired,

http://www.wired.com/2015/03/jay-evolving-weird-way/?mbid=social_fb

Congratulations Dr. Langin!  How timely to coincide with Charles Darwin’s birthday (February 12th), and how coincidental that one of Darwin’s claims to fame is the diverse group of finch species he discovered on the Galapagos Islands near Ecuador!

This research was financially and logistically supported by the National Science Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Smithsonian Institution.