Luis Valente


I'm an evolutionary biologist interested in the origins of biodiversity in a geographical context - particularly on islands. I also study the effects of anthropogenic extinctions on isolated ecosystems. I use modelling, phylogenetic and genomic approaches to reconstruct diversification dynamics over evolutionary time scales. I work on a variety of organisms (plants and animals) from marine islands and continental biodiversity hotspots.


Evolution, island biology, phylogenetics, birds, plants, biodiversity hotspots

Dr. Luis Valente

Senior researcher
Understanding evolution

Assistant professor
Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences

Personal website:



Islands are natural laboratories for the study of biodiversity, and understanding how communities assemble on islands is a test-bed for how they accumulate on larger landmasses. 

The importance of islands for biological research is two-fold: they are the setting of nature’s most spectacular adaptive radiations and are at the frontline of today’s biodiversity crisis. I develop models that can be applied to phylogenetic data from both extinct and extant species, allowing us to reconstruct and predict the pattern of accumulation of species on islands.

Fernandina Island Galápagos
Galápagos warbler


A selection of the topics I am working on currently.  More info:

Coquerel's Sifaka (Propithecus coquereli) in northern Madagascar © David Dennis

Human-caused extinctions on islands

Islands have experienced exceptionally high rates of extinction after human settlement: over 60% of documented terrestrial species extinctions were island endemics and the surviving island taxa are greatly over-represented on endangered species lists. For…
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Evolution and biogeography of island birds

Birds are the most diverse vertebrate group on islands. They are also perhaps the best studied group on islands, as ornithological work has a long history and there is currently a very active community gathering data on distribution, ecology, traits and…
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Island biogeography of Asteraceae

While birds and mammals have received most attention from island biologists, they actually pale in comparison with plants when it comes to insular diversification. Among plants, the most remarkable group from an island perspective are the daisies…
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  • Valente L, Phillimore AB, Melo M, Warren BH, Clegg SM, Havenstein K, Tiedemann R, Illera JC, Aschenbach T, Thébaud C, Etienne RS. A simple dynamic model explains the diversity of island birds worldwide (2020) Nature, 579, 92-96.
  • Valente L, Etienne RS, Garcia-R JC. Deep macroevolutionary impact of humans on New Zealand's unique avifauna (2019) Current Biology, 29, 2563-2569.e4. (featured in the issue's cover).
  • Valente L, Etienne RS, Dávalos L. Recent extinctions disturb path to equilibrium diversity in Caribbean bats (2017) Nature Ecology and Evolution, 1, 26.
  • Valente L, Illera JC, Havenstein K, Pallien T, Etienne RS, Tiedemann R. Equilibrium bird species diversity in Atlantic islands (2017) Current Biology, 27, 1660-1666
  • Valente L, Phillimore AB, Etienne RS. Equilibrium and non-equilibrium dynamics simultaneously operate in the Galápagos islands (2015) Ecology Letters, 18, 844-852.
  • Valente L, Savolainen V & Vargas P. Unparalleled rates of species diversification in Europe (2010) Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 277, 1489-1496.

All publications

In the

Scientific AmericanPodcast 

Süddeutsche Zeitung, News article 

Nature Flower power

Science How carnations conquered Europe

Le Figaro, News article

Radio New Zealand, How could bird species diversity be recovered?

National Geographic Darwin finches reached evolutionary limit 

BNR radio Radio Interview

Zosterops inornatus (Olivier Hebert)


Naturalis aims to be a breeding ground for international scientific talent. Therefore, PhD's have a special position in our organisation. More info on students working in my team: