Speciation: Definition, Causes, Process, Types, Examples

Speciation Definition

The process of creating a new, genetically distinct species through the process of evolution is known as speciation.

  • Speciation is the partition of a genetically homogenous population into two or more genetically distinct populations, followed by genetic differentiation and reproductive isolation.
  • The emergence of new populations (species) with higher adaptation efficiencies than their ancestors determines the entire history of evolution.

Two processes result in speciation.

  1. evolution through time of ancient species into new species.
  2. The multiplication of species is the division of a single species into numerous others.

Speciation Causes

Speciation is brought on by a number of circumstances, including:

  1. Natural selection
  • According to Charles Darwin, various members of a species may develop certain unique traits that are beneficial and have an impact on the genetic make-up of the person.
  • These traits will be preserved in such circumstances, and new species may eventually develop.
  • But in this instance, only while a single species divides into several species, resulting in the proliferation of species, does speciation occur.
  1. Genetic drif
  • Genetic drift is the shift in allele frequencies in a population resulting from “sampling error” while selecting the alleles for the next generation from the gene pool of the current population.
  • However, it has been suggested that genetic drift does not cause speciation but only evolution, which is a transition from one species to another and is not the same as speciation.
  1. Migration
  • When a specified proportion of a population moves from one geographic place to another, the characteristics of a species may diverge from those of the parent population.
  • Geographic isolation brought on by migration typically results in speciation.
  1. Chromosomal Mutations
  • A highly advantageous gene complement may be locked up and protected by a chromosomal mutation, which has the ability to act as (or contribute to) an isolating mechanism.
  • When these mutations are carried over from generation to generation, new species may be created.
  1. Natural causes
  • Natural occurrences forced by the environment, such as a river or a mountain range, can occasionally result in the division of a population that was formerly continuous into two or smaller communities.
  • These occurrences cause the emerging species to become geographically isolated. Consequently, reproductive isolation leads to speciation.
  1. Reduction of gene flow
  • In the absence of any external physical obstacles, speciation may also take place.
  • Over a large geographic area, there may be less gene flow, suggesting that there would be fewer opportunities for mating between those in the extreme east and those in the extreme west.
  • Moreover, if there were selection processes, like genetic drift, at the extremities of the spectrum, the gene frequencies would fluctuate, ensuring speciation.

Speciation process (How does speciation occur?)

Traditionally, speciation has been seen to occur in three stages:

  1. Isolation of populations
  2. The features of distinct populations vary (e.g., mating systems or habitat use).
  3. Reproductive isolation of groups that prevents recontact between populations (secondary contact)
  • According to a recent study, steps one and two can happen in the same location simultaneously, while the third step is frequently skipped.
  • The initial phase in the process of speciation is the isolation of a subpopulation of a species, which can occur physically (allotropic speciation) or genetically (sympatric speciation).
  • Once the population is divided, a subpopulation of a species develops as a result of a slow accumulation of tiny genetic changes. Eventually, the subpopulations accumulate enough differences to become distinct species.
  • The subpopulation will continue to diverge through mutation, selection, and genetic drift as it becomes genetically independent over time.
  • The subpopulation’s habitat or eating habits may alter as a result of the genetic divergence, which results in reproductive isolation. It may also induce a modest change in the form of the male genitalia.
  • Eventually, even if the modalities of isolation were eliminated, the genetic divergence between the subpopulations would be so great that hybridization would be medically, developmentally, or behaviorally impossible.

Types of speciation/Modes of speciation

  • The modalities, or types, of speciation are classified according to the extent to which geographic isolation of the original population results in reduced gene flow and, ultimately, the emergence of new species.

These are the modes of speciation.

Allopatric Speciation

  • The method of speciation known as allopatric speciation occurs when a barrier splits the initial population in two, causing reproductive isolation.
  • Mayr introduced the allopatric speciation paradigm.
  • Its premise is that new species arise whenever a physical geographical barrier divides a species’ large population into multiple smaller populations.
  • Due to their physical separation, the members of these isolated groups cannot interbreed.
  • Physical barriers like enormous oceanic stretches, tall mountains, glaciers, deep river basins, big rivers, or deserts can create physical isolation, as can a significant distance caused by a wider geographical range.
  • Every isolated population starts adapting to its own environment, accumulating differences and independently evolving into new species.
  • Allopatric speciation can occur even when the barrier lets certain individuals traverse it to mate with members of other groups.
  • Gene flow between the forming species must be greatly decreased, though it need not be eliminated totally, for speciation to even be deemed “allopatric.”

Examples of Allopatric speciation

Darwin’s finches are a great example of allopatric speciation. It has been noted that the various populations of finches living in the Galapagos Islands differ in terms of physical characteristics such as body size, colour, and the length or form of their beaks. The variations came about as a result of the numerous culinary options found on the islands.

Another illustration is the Grand Canyon squirrel, which split into two distinct species as a result of the Grand Canyon’s development.

Peripatric Speciation

  • Peripatric speciation is a unique form of allopatric speciation that takes place when the isolated subpopulation is quite tiny in size.
  • Geographical distance and genetic drift both play a role in this situation, although genetic drift is more pronounced in small groups.
  • A few generations later, due to genetic drift, certain unusual genes that were present in the tiny, isolated subpopulation may have been fixed in the new geographic area.
  • As a result, these uncommon genes wind up being present in every member of the new region’s population.
  • Throughout time, natural selection as well as new genetic features collaborate to ensure the lifespan of individuals that are perfectly suited to the environment and nutrition of the new site.
  • New species are finally created as a result of the effect of all these variables.
  • The difficulty in explaining how genetic drift contributed to the separation of the two populations makes it difficult to obtain information that would support or contradict this method.

Examples of Peripatric Speciation

The Australian bird Petroica multicolor and the London Underground mosquito, a species of the insect Culex pipiens that initially originated on the London Underground in the 19th century, are examples of Petripatric speciation.

Parapatric Speciation

  • There is no extrinsic barrier separating the population in the case of parapatric speciation, yet because of the population’s wide geographic distribution, individuals are more likely to mate with those who live nearby than with those who live elsewhere.
  • Although the population is continuous in this instance, mating is not random.
  • Here, there is less gene flow within the population and a range of selection pressures that result in genetic variation.
  • This happens among populations that are dispersed across a wide geographic area.
  • Therefore, it is impossible for individuals in the far west to mate with those in the far east.
  • Within the current population, new species may develop over a few generations.

Examples of Parapatric speciation

  • In the grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, certain species that dwell close to the mine have developed a tolerance to heavy metals, whereas other plants that don’t reside there don’t.
  • However, because of their proximity, the plants may pollinate one another and create a new species.

Sympatric Speciation

  • Synaptic speciation is the process through which new species arise from populations that are not geographically separated.
  • It is predicated on the expansion of a species’ populations into new ecological niches and the reproductive separation of the founders of the new populations from members of the parent populations.
  • It is hypothesised that inherent processes like chromosomal abnormalities and non-random mating hinder gene flow between the daughter and parental populations.
  • When someone uses a new niche, there may be a reduction in gene flow with others using a different niche.
  • This mode of speciation is ubiquitous when herbivore insects begin feeding and breeding on a fresh plant or while a new plant is established within the range of the species.
  • Once the gene flow between species that are specialised in a certain plant is limited, new species may eventually emerge.
  • For the population to diverge, the specialization-causing selection has to be quite powerful.
  • Therefore, sympatric speciation occurs intermittently in populations of randomly mated multicellular creatures.

Examples of Sympatric speciation

Apple maggot flies that deposited eggs and reproduced exclusively on hawthorns two centuries ago now display synchronised diversification by laying eggs on hawthorns and cultivating apples.

Because of this, there is less gene flow between populations that mate on different types of fruit, and in less than 200 years, genetic differences have arisen between these two groups of flies.


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