The mechanics of speciation

June 24, 2011

Mate choice, competition, and the variety of resources available are the key factors influencing how a species evolves into separate species, according to a new mathematical model that integrates all three factors to reveal the dynamics at play in a process called sympatric speciation.

Titled "Factors influencing progress toward sympatric speciation," the paper appears in today's edition of the .

New species more commonly occur when or animals cannot interbreed because of strong mate choice, and therefore they become isolated genetically. A less common type of speciation, called "sympatric," occurs when a new species arises from a single population that has no geographic or physical barriers. A famous example is the Rhagoleitis pomonella fruit fly that originally feasted on the fruit of hawthorn trees, then shifted and began to feed on apples, evolving into a more genetically distinct type of fly.

The new model integrates three key factors that can lead to sympatric speciation: the degree to which male foraging traits influence female mate choice, the degree to which different individuals compete for resources, and the variety of resources available. By incorporating three different factors together, the study's authors, Xavier Thibert-Plante, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute for Mathematical and , and Andrew P. Hendry, an associate professor at McGill University, have taken a different more inclusive approach than in previous studies, which examine one or a few primary factors.

"This way we can consider the effects of multiple factors and their interactions simultaneously. At the very least, having a variety of resources available in the model is a productive way of generating insights into ," Thibert-Plante said.

According to the results, competition was much less important factor for sympatric speciation to occur than strong mate choice and the variety of resources available.

Yet, even under ideal conditions, sympatric speciation occurred only a fraction of the time in the model. But that does not mean sympatric speciation is not impossible in nature, the authors argue. "Mate choice allows the population to specialize to different resources and become reproductively isolated," Thibert-Plante said.

Explore further: University biologist publishes book on bird speciation

More information: Thibert-Plante X, Hendry AP. Factors influencing progress toward sympatric speciation. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. Online edition 24 June 2011.

Provided by: National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS)


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5 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2011
This post is an experiment.
It is only an experiment.

If it had been a real post it would be missing important words.

5 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2011

I thought I had figured out a way to change my handle. All it did was allow my full name to be shown in my profile instead of using the full name in place of the nickname as it said it would do.

Physorg is telling a fairy story in the profile settings.

Display Name: Full Name

Does NOT replace

Display Name: Nickname

Despite the labels clearly saying that it would do so.

What it actually does is that it allows the full name to be seen as well as the nickname.


who was trying to change it to Ethelred Hardrede like I used years ago on the Maximum PC forum.

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