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Isolation-by-Distance and Outbreeding Depression Are Sufficient to Drive Parapatric Speciation in the Absence of Environmental Influences

Hoelzer, GA and Drewes, R and Meier, J and Doursat, R and Bourne, PE (2008) Isolation-by-Distance and Outbreeding Depression Are Sufficient to Drive Parapatric Speciation in the Absence of Environmental Influences. PLoS Computational Biology, 4.

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Abstract

A commonly held view in evolutionary biology is that speciation (the emergence of genetically distinct and reproductively incompatible subpopulations) is driven by external environmental constraints, such as localized barriers to dispersal or habitat-based variation in selection pressures. We have developed a spatially explicit model of a biological population to study the emergence of spatial and temporal patterns of genetic diversity in the absence of predetermined subpopulation boundaries. We propose a 2-D cellular automata model showing that an initially homogeneous population might spontaneously subdivide into reproductively incompatible species through sheer isolation-by-distance when the viability of offspring decreases as the genomes of parental gametes become increasingly different. This simple implementation of the Dobzhansky-Muller model provides the basis for assessing the process and completion of speciation, which is deemed to occur when there is complete postzygotic isolation between two subpopulations. The model shows an inherent tendency toward spatial self-organization, as has been the case with other spatially explicit models of evolution. A well-mixed version of the model exhibits a relatively stable and unimodal distribution of genetic differences as has been shown with previous models. A much more interesting pattern of temporal waves, however, emerges when the dispersal of individuals is limited to short distances. Each wave represents a subset of comparisons between members of emergent subpopulations diverging from one another, and a subset of these divergences proceeds to the point of speciation. The long-term persistence of diverging subpopulations is the essence of speciation in biological populations, so the rhythmic diversity waves that we have observed suggest an inherent disposition for a population experiencing isolation-by-distance to generate new species.

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