November 26, 2009
Ecological Speciation By Sexual Selection On Good Genes
Is speciation adaptive?
Darwin suggested that the action of natural selection can produce new species, but 150 years after the publication of his famous book, 'On the Origin of Species', debate still continues on the mechanisms of speciation. New research finds sexual selection to greatly enlarge the scope for adaptive speciation by triggering a positive feedback between mate choice and ecological diversification that can eventually eliminate gene flow between species.
Findings suggest natural and sexual selection can work in concert to achieve local adaptation and reproductive isolation, even in the presence of substantial gene flow. Future research involves the development of models to examine interactions between ecology and mate choice that could help to explain how diversity arises and how reproductive isolation between species evolves. The ideas presented in the paper may soon be tested in the field in crossbill birds, sticklebacks and other species where biologists are currently investigating whether the attractiveness of mates does indeed reflect adaptation to the local environment.
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