Stasipatric speciation: resurrecting a system to bury a hypothesis?


Michael Kearney, Fax: +61 3 83447909;


The process of speciation remains a fundamental topic in evolutionary biology. Numerous models of speciation have been proposed and they are as diverse and colourful as the scientists who conceived them (Coyne & Orr 2004). One of the more controversial theories has been the ‘stasipatric speciation’ model, proposed by the pioneering and influential cytogeneticist Michael White and his co-workers (White 1968; White et al. 1967). This is one of a number of speciation models whereby chromosomal rearrangements drive the speciation process. The inspiration for the theory of stasipatric speciation came from White’s karyotypic analyses of a group of Australian grasshoppers of the genus Vandiemenella (White et al. 1967) (Fig. 1). It has been exactly three decades since the last scientific publication on this group of grasshoppers, over which time the molecular revolution dramatically altered the landscape of evolutionary genetics. Kawakami and colleagues have successfully resurrected the Vandiemenella system (Kawakami et al. 2009a, 2007) and in this issue they have applied modern molecular-based techniques to reassess the validity of the stasipatric speciation model for this historically important group (Kawakami et al. 2009b).

Figure 1.

Figure 1.

 The grasshopper (Vandiemenella viatica) that inspired Michael White to develop the stasipatric speciation model (photograph by Remko Leijs).