Sympatric speciation: when is it possible?



This paper is written to compare the results of theoretical investigations of sympatric speciation with the relevant experimental data. We understand sympatric speciation as a formation of species out of a population whose spatial structure is not important genetically. A necessary prerequisite for speciation is an action of disruptive selection on sufficiently polymorphic traits. The present analysis confirms the view that such a selection is ecologically realistic. The genetical part of speciation begins with a development of reproductive isolation between those individuals that are opposed in some characters. It is shown that selection for reproductive isolation may be quite strong. Extinction of intermediate individuals, which completes speciation, proceeds under a wide range of conditions, including those when the newly formed species differ in quantitative characters, though most of the genes arc likely to remain the same in both species. The whole process seems possible if differences in several (up to 10) loci are sufficient to adapt the forming species to different niches and to establish reproductive isolation. It is shown that populations with bimodal distributions of some genetically determined quantitative characters can have a considerable life-time. Such distributions may be formed either as a transition stage of sympatric speciation or represent a stationary state under conditions close to those necessary to complete speciation. They are very important for experimental investigations. Sympatric speciation always follows the same principal course; it does not contradict the idea of a genome coadaptedness. The occurrence of sympatric speciation is different for different taxa depending rather on how frequently populations are subjected to the appropriate kind of selection than on their ability to obey it.