Evolutionary Biology Online Journal Club

#EBJclub 2.4 – Ecological Speciation

5 Comments

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Author: Rafael Maia

Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Idaho, studying the development and evolution of iridescent colors in birds.

5 thoughts on “#EBJclub 2.4 – Ecological Speciation

  1. I don’t know if there have been suggested papers for next time, but I came across a review on the “Ecology and genetics of speciation in Ficedula flycatchers” that could be interesting. I have only skimmed it, but it looks good (read: pretty figures) and they discuss topics like ecological speciation, sympatry and reproductive barriers, all the while focusing on the example of the flycatchers. It is a bit long, though :s

  2. With species and subspecies definitions, a good criteria is whether to organisms can mate and produce fertile offspring, but this
    should not be the only criteria. It also is sometimes important whether the organisms can only mate under specific conditions such as when humans put them together whereas those conditions are almost never met “in the wild”.

    The case of coyotes (Canis latrans) vs wolf (Canis lupus) is one interesting example.
    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1378675?uid=3739816&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101912520901
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/31/eastern-wolves-coyote-hybrids_n_869268.html

    It seems to me that in most cases biology is analog with a continuous spectrum from one group of organisms to the next closest relative. And asking for clear cut points between species is a convenience for human definitions and classification. In the case of human to chimpanzee and gorilla all of the many intermediates have gone extinct now. But primates may not be the best example of all life on earth as far as speciation events go.

    Anyway, my opinion is that people often get too caught up in defining exactly what a “species” is, or too caught up in trying to decide what the “most important” barriers are that can lead to genetic isolation of two populations from a single founder. There are hundreds of potential barriers and the ones that tend to be more important for beetles are different than those for mushrooms or lizards.

    • I agree with you, Brian, when you say that the search for “clear-cut points between species” is really just a matter of convenience. In much the same way, one of my professors liked to criticize cladistics in class, especially when it came to the speciation process in the hominidae – he called it an “evolutionary potato”.

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