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François Vuilleumier

François Vuilleumier

Curator Emeritus (Ornithology)

Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967 "Speciation in High Andean Birds"


Profound climatic changes have transformed the globe in the past two million years. During the cold episodes, ice caps covered vast areas of the temperate zone. In the tropics, rain forests were reduced to small and isolated patches (refugia). Some bird species became extinct because they were unable to adapt to such drastic ecological modifications. Others survived, responding to geographic isolation by eventually becoming new species-a process known as speciation. In the Monte Biome of Argentina, where Dr. Vuilleumier is currently conducting research, no such isolation is detectable. Yet, bird speciation occurred there, as shown by species distribution patterns. Solving this apparent paradox is one of the goals of Dr. Vuilleumier's research.

The Monte, a 600,000-square-kilometer crescent of shrublike vegetation found only in Argentina, is home to hundreds of bird species, several of which occur only there. Several bird species of the Monte have closely related species (called sister species) in neighboring regions of different vegetation types. Yet geographical isolation between these species is lacking, and their distributions abut, a phenomenon termed parapatry by evolutionary biologists. By analyzing these birds' distributions and phylogenetic relationships, Dr. Vuilleumier hopes to find clues to their origins. He also hopes to find clues about how to preserve these birds.

The task of making a complete inventory for the diverse avian assemblage of the Monte is urgent, as this biome is seriously threatened by livestock breeding that has resulted in overgrazing. His project, affectionately titled "The Full Monte," is divided into two parts. The first calls for a complete census of the region's landbirds by a joint team of scientists from the Museum and various South American institutions. The second phase will enter the information gathered from specimen collection and field observations into a combined database. This database will be used for research into evolutionary problems and to guide conservation action in order to protect the Monte's unique ecosystem and its resulting biodiversity.

Significant Publications

Robbins, R. G., L. N. Sorkin, and F. Vuilleumier. "First Report of Ixodes auritulus Neumann (Acari: Ixodida: Ixodidae) from the Blackish Cinclodes, Cinclodes antarcticus (Garnot) (Aves: Passeriformes: Furnariidae), with Additional Records of Parasitism of Cinclodes spp. by this Tick Species." Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 103 (2001): 265-268.

Vuilleumier, F. "Further Collecting of Birds in the Neotropics Is Still Needed." Ornitología Neotropical 11 (2000): 269-274.

Vuilleumier, F. "Biogeography on the Eve of the Twenty-first Century: Towards an Epistemology of Biogeography." Proceedings of the 22nd International Ornithological Congress, Durban, Ostrich 70 (1999): 89-103.

Vuilleumier, F. "Avian Biodiversity in Forest and Steppe Communities of Chilean Fuego-Patagonia." Anales del Instituto de la Patagonia, Serie Ciencias Nnaturales 26 (1998): 41-57.

Andors, A. V., and F. Vuilleumier. "Observations on the Distribution, Behavior, and Comparative Breeding Biology of Neoxolmis rufiventris (Aves: Tyrannidae). American Museum Novitates 3220 (1998): 32 pp.

Vuilleumier, F. "How Many Bird Species Inhabit the Puna Desert of the High Andes of South America?" Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters 6 (1997): 149-153.

Vuilleumier, F. "Birds Observed in the Arctic Ocean to the North Pole." Arctic and Alpine Research 28 (1996): 118-122.

Vuilleumier, F. "Is the Avifauna of the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands Impoverished or at Equilibrium?" Southern Connection Newsletter 10 (1996): 22-33.

Professional Affiliations
  • American Ornithologists' Union
  • Asociación Ornitológica del Plata (Argentina)
  • Neotropical Bird Club (UK)
  • Neotropical Ornithological Society
  • Società Italiana di Scienze Naturali (Italy)
  • Société de Biogéographie (France)
  • Society for the Study and Protection of Birds (Switzerland)
  • Unión de Ornitólogos de Chile (Chile)
  • Société Ornithologique de France (France)
  • Zeiss Historica Society
Editorial and Adjunct Appointments

Editorial Board Member of the following journals:

  • Acta Zoológica Mexicana (Mexico)
  • Anales del Instituto de la Patagonia (Chile)
  • Ararajuba, Journal of the Brazilian Ornithological Society (Brazil)
  • Ornitología Neotropical (USA)
  • Revue d'Ecologie (France)
  • Rivista Italiana di Ornitologia (Italy)
  • Zoosystema, Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle (France)
  • Adjunct Professor, Graduate Center, CUNY
Other Professional Honors
  • Neotropical Ornithological Society (President)
  • American Ornithologists' Union (Fellow)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (Fellow)
  • Société Ornithologique de France (Honorary Member)
Graduate Students and Research Associates
  • Sara Bertelli, Ph.D. Candidate, Universidad de Tucumán, Argentina
  • Katja Kunz, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Cologne, Germany
  • Rebeca Lobo, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Tucumán, Argentina
  • Allison V. Andors, Research Associate

Also at the Museum Beyond Planet Earth


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