Evolutionary Biology Online Journal Club

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Season 2, Meeting 4: Ecological Speciation

Join us Monday, March 18th at  4:30pm EST

Ecological speciation is a surprisingly broad topic (by which I mean picking a paper wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be…).  Schluter (2009, Science) argues there is good reason for this, as he categorizes all speciation events into only two broad categories: mutation-order and ecological.  Given that ecological speciation can just be thought of as “divergence [that] is driven by divergent natural selection between environments” (Schluter 2009), I thought it might be useful to consider a variety of mechanisms of selective reproductive isolation, or ecological speciation.  One obvious one of course is geographic reproductive isolation, which we discussed in Meeting 3, The Geography of Speciation.  So I chose a paper by Andrew Hendry, Patrick Nosil, and Loren Rieseberg, which I think does a pretty good job of providing not only different mechanisms of ecological speciation, but covers a variety of taxa, all from the premise that “adaptation to new ecological environments can cause the contemporary evolution of reproductive isolation” (Hendry, Nosil and Rieseberg, 2007).  I hope this leads to an interesting discussion!  Below is a link to the discussion paper, as well as to two other interesting review papers on ecological speciation by Schluter (2009) and Rundle and Nosil (2005), in case you have that elusive ‘extra’ time. If you have even more extra time, there was a whole special issue on ecological speciation in the International Journal of Ecology in 2012, also linked below. Hope to see lots of you on Monday!

The paper we will be discussing:

Hendry, A. P., Nosil, P. and Rieseberg, L.H. 2007. The speed of ecological speciation. Functional Ecology, 21(3): 455-464. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2007.01240.x

Other papers that may be of interest:

Schluter, D. 2009. Evidence for Ecological Speciation and Its Alternative. Science, 323(5915): 737-741. DOI: 10.1126/science.1160006

Rundle, H.D. and Nosil, P. 2005. Ecological Speciation. Ecology Letters, 8(3):336-352. DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2004.00715.x

Special issue on Ecological Speciation, in the International Journal of Ecology (2012)


As usual, our meeting will be in Google+ hangouts, so here are a couple useful resources:


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Reading for next meeting (March 4th)

Hey everyone,

sorry for the super short notice, but hopefully we can still get to read them before the meeting next Monday, march 4th at 4:30PM. (if it’s too short notice, let me know and we can transfer it to next week).

The readings this week will be on the geography of speciation, and were chosen by David Winter, but I will be leading the discussion. They are two not-too-long papers that work well together. I would like to suggest we focus on the second one, but it references the first one considerably in making its argument, so let’s try to read and discuss them both:

FITZPATRICK, B. M., FORDYCE, J. A. and GAVRILETS, S. (2008) What, if anything, is sympatric speciation?. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 21: 1452–1459.

MALLET, J., MEYER, A., NOSIL, P. and FEDER, J. L. (2009) Space, sympatry and speciation. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 22: 2332–2341.

Again, sorry for the short notice, but I hope to see you all in a couple days!

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Season 2, Meeting 2 – Consistency & Consensus in Taxonomy

After last session’s discussion on species concepts/definitions, people thought it might be worthwhile talking about species from a taxonomist’s point of view. There aren’t many papers I know of that talk about the taxonomic process, but if people have questions I’ll be happy to answer what I can from my experiences.

However, I did find a paper that I think does a good job of discussing some of the issues that were brought up last time, and introduces a few more ideas on what a species is from a taxonomists viewpoint, and how that viewpoint differs between individuals:

Vane-Wright, R.I. 2003. Indifferent Philosophy versus Almighty Authority: on consistency, consensus and unitary taxonomy. Systematics and Biodiversity 1 (1): 3-11. doi:10.1017/S1477200003001063 (PDF here)

Vane-Wright refers back to a short commentary that was published in Nature a few months prior that might also be of interest:

Godfray, H.C.J. 2002. Challenges for taxonomy. Nature, 417: 17–19. doi:10.1038/417017a (PDF here)

Anyways, Vane-Wright discusses the nomenclatural plight of a group of African butterflies and how definitions of the species of interest have changed through time and with differing research opinions/objectives. Everything from creationism to cladism is discussed, and the author proposes a new hierarchical system that only serves to complicate matters in my mind. I think it should be a pretty interesting discussion, and I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone else thinks of it.

P.S. There was some discussion about how taxonomy can affect conservation last time as well, so I thought I’d point people to this paper which does a nice job of discussing the issue:

Mace, G.M. 2004. The role of taxonomy in species conservation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 359: 711-719. doi:10.1098/rstb.2003.1454 (PDF here)


Planning our second meeting

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 10.36.01 AM

It seems from the poll that most of you would like to go back to Google+ Hangouts after our first meeting, so we’ll do that for next time. Make sure you add our google+ page to your circles, otherwise you won’t get the invitation for the videochat!

Remember that even if you didn’t join the first meeting, you’re more than welcome to join the following ones! Just introduce yourself in the forum page!

Now we need to decide on a topic and a volunteer to lead the discussion. I made a list of topics that were brought up:

  • Speciation and Taxonomy 
  • Sympatry, allopatry and the geography of speciation
  • Ecological speciation and adaptive radiations
  • The genomics of speciation (the Ficedula flycatcher paper might be a good starting point)
  • Population genetics, demography, and speciation
  • Sexual selection, behavior, speciation and non-adaptive radiations (sneaked this one in!)
  • Cospeciation and coevolution

We can add more topics as they are suggested, but if we’re meeting every other meeting those topics could well fill our schedule. Let me know if they sound good or if there are some of these you’re not really that interested in as well!

I got a couple links that might provide us inspiration for topics and/or ideas for papers:

So now we need volunteers and paper suggestions! I agree with Sam that we should rather have a Taxonomy-centered discussion sooner than later, so if nobody volunteers until tomorrow I’ll just go ahead and “volunteer” Morgan Jackson to choose a paper and lead the discussion 🙂

We should have a paper chosen by Monday the latest, giving us a week before next meeting on Monday February 18th, 4:30PM EST!


Species Concepts for Conservation – Nature 494

As if on cue, Nature published a short Correspondence letter this week which talks about the effect that species splitting is having on mammal conservation. You can read it online here (paywall, so also here).

Personally, I don’t really like it when someone says we should be stemming our research to fit political ideals, and feel that the authors are just trying to get other taxonomists to conform to their own ideas of what a species is. It is interesting to see how the Biological Species Concept is pitted against Phylogenetic Species Concepts however, and it’s clear that some people are not as open to hybrid definitions/concepts like we discussed earlier this week.

What do you think? Should we restrict changing species concepts of threatened species, or are there other ways to approach this problem without throwing taxonomy under the bus?
Zachos F.E. (2013). Taxonomy: Species splitting puts conservation at risk, Nature, 494 (7435) 35-35. DOI: