Sympatric Speciation in the Post “Modern Synthesis” Era of Evolutionary Biology


Sympatric speciation is among the most controversial and challenging concepts in evolution. There are a multitude of definitions of speciation alone, and when combined with the biogeographic concept of sympatric range overlap, consensus on what sympatric speciation is, whether it happens, and its importance, is even more difficult to achieve. Providing the basis upon which to define and judge sympatric speciation, the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis (Huxley in Evolution: the modern synthesis. MIT Press, Cambridge, 1942) led to the conclusion that sympatric speciation is an inconsequential process in the generation of species diversity. In the post Modern Synthesis era of evolutionary biology, the PCR revolution and associated accumulation of DNA sequence data from natural populations has led to a resurgence of interest in sympatric speciation, and more importantly, the role of natural selection in lineage diversification. Much effort is currently being devoted to elucidating the processes by which the constituents of an initially panmictic population can become reproductively isolated and evolve some level of reproductive incompatibility without the complete cessation of gene flow due to geographic barriers. The evolution of reproductive isolation solely due to natural selection is perhaps the most controversial manner by which sympatric speciation occurs, and it is that which we focus upon in this review. Mathematical model simulations indicate that even strict definitions of sympatric speciation are possible to satisfy, empirical data consistent with sympatric divergence are accumulating, but irrefutable evidence of sympatric speciation in natural populations remains elusive. Genomic investigations are advancing our ability to identify genetic patterns caused by natural selection, thereby advancing our understanding of the power of natural selection relative to gene flow. Overall, sympatric lineage divergence, especially at the sub-species level, may have led to a substantial portion of biodiversity.

DOI: 10.1007/s11692-012-9183-6

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@article{Bird2012SympatricSI, title={Sympatric Speciation in the Post “Modern Synthesis” Era of Evolutionary Biology}, author={Christopher E. Bird and Iria Fernandez-Silva and Derek J. Skillings and Robert J Toonen}, journal={Evolutionary Biology}, year={2012}, volume={39}, pages={158-180} }