Sympatric Speciation: Definition, Characteristics, and Examples

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Sympatric Speciation Definition

Sympatric speciation is defined by the fact that it occurs when two populations of the same species live in the same area but are able to split into two groups and develop genetically in such a way that they can no longer interbreed and form new species.

What is Sympatric Speciation?

Sympatric speciation is a process in which two groups of similar species living in the same geographical region develop to the point where they can no longer interbreed. They are regarded as distinct species at that moment. It’s also the explanation for the emergence of two or more genera in the same geographic area from the same parent species. Although this form of speciation may be observed in a variety of species, including the apple maggot fly, bacteria, and cichlid fish, it is difficult to determine when it happens spontaneously.

What is Speciation?

Speciation is an evolutionary process in which two separate populations develop into a distinct species. It’s the process by which two populations diverge genetically. Allopatric speciation, Peripatric speciation, Parapatric speciation, and sympatric speciation are the four methods by which new species emerge.

Sympatric Speciation Examples

i. Apple Maggot Fly

Rhagoletis pomonella (apple maggot fly), for example, is an example of sympatric speciation. The apple maggot flies deposit their eggs on hawthorn fruit first (a relative of the apple). In the nineteenth century, a new type of maggot fly evolved that only laid eggs on apples. When apples were transported to North America, this happened. As a result, two distinct groups of apple maggots have emerged: one that lays eggs on apples and another that lays eggs on hawthorns.

The female deposits her eggs on the fruit that grew there, and the male seeks out and mates with the female on the same fruit that grew there. As a consequence, flies raised on hawthorn fruits will only generate offspring on hawthorn fruits, whereas flies raised on apple fruits will only produce offspring on apple fruits. As a result, both groups’ genetic composition are changing, and they will evolve into distinct species over time. This example demonstrates that speciation can occur within the same species but in distinct geographical areas.

ii. Midas Cichlid

The sympathetic speciation is demonstrated by the Midas cichlid (Amphilophus species), which lives in Lake Apoyo (a volcanic lake in Nicaragua). Their looks, nature, and DNA are all studied by scientists. Despite their resemblance, these two are distinct and cannot cross-breed. All of the evidence points to one species evolving from another. The newer species in this population developed relatively recently, yet in evolutionary terms, they evolved about 10,000 years ago.

iii. ORCA

The split between “resident” and “transient” orca types in the northeast Pacific is a rare example of sympatric speciation. Despite the fact that they share the same water, orcas avoid each other and do not breed. They differ in a variety of areas, including nutrition, vocal behaviour, and social organisation. They also attack a variety of prey. Nearly 200,000 years ago, a significant population decline occurred, which not only reduced the size of the population but also influenced gene variety. Following that, a slew of ecotypes appeared.

iv. Bacteria

Bacteria are considered to be more prone to sympatric speciation. Bacteria can share DNA with people who are neither parents nor children. Horizontal gene transfer is used to accomplish this. Bacteria such as Synechococcus and Bacillus, as well as the bacterioplankton Vibrio splendidus, have been found to have Sympatric speciation. One of the most significant aspects of sympatric speciation is adaptability to environmental circumstances. If some individuals of a species have evolved to exist in a certain habitat, and a small number of those species may relocate, they will ultimately adapt to the new environment.

Types of Speciation

Speciation may take place in four distinct ways, depending on where you are in the world.

• Sympatric Speciation

• Allopatric Speciation

• Peripatric Speciation

• Parapatric Speciation

i. Allopatric Speciation

Because of population dispersion or a natural geologic occurrence, allopatric speciation occurs when one species splits into two groups, which are subsequently partitioned into two distinct species. Mountains may arise as a result of a geologic event. Allopatric speciation, like the other forms of speciation, is generally a gradual process. When a species is split into two classes or groups, allopatric speciation typically occurs.

Interbreeding is difficult due to mountain ranges, rivers, and other physical obstacles. As a result, each species develops at its own pace, eventually adapting to its surroundings. The characters or qualities are subsequently passed on to the following generation.

Because of any geographical occurrence, members of a population become divided. The development of any river or mountain range might be that event. Human activities such as forest logging and land pollution have a negative impact on many species’ natural habitats.

They move as a result of the loss of their habits. Gene mutations will result in a population with a wide range of personalities. Genetic variances will result in the emergence of new and distinct characteristics among a population’s species, resulting in divergent populations.

Geographic isolation occurs when individuals of a community of plants, animals, or any other creature become separated and stop sharing genetic material with others of the same species. Any chance or coincidental event will result in geographical isolation. It can also be induced for a variety of other reasons, with varying outcomes.

• Barrier isolation: physical barriers prohibit the interbreeding of fish from two separate pools. It will result in a less diverse gene pool among fish. Soon, the fish will be unable to mate with members of other groups, resulting in reduced genetic diversity in the gene pool.

• Isolation following an event: Any natural calamity, such as an earthquake, may cause two communities to become separated. The genetic composition of each species would therefore differ, resulting in less variety. A forest fire leads certain animals, such as deer, to get separated from their main group. This tiny population interbreeds and evolves into a new or unique species with its own genetic composition over time.

• Isolation via separation: people in tiny, isolated communities do not marry people from other places. This will result in reduced variety in the gene pool as well as a more homogeneous population.

• Isolation by distance: When a flock of finches is separated from the rest of the flock, there is little or no genetic exchange, and the isolated group eventually evolves into a distinct species. Bottlenose dolphins become isolated from their main group, are unable to adapt to environmental changes, and eventually go extinct.

Allopatric Speciation Examples

Because of the barrier created by the creation of the Arizona Grand Canyon, tiny animals like squirrels who were formerly part of the same population could no longer communicate and interbreed. As a result of the passage of time, the squirrels have developed allopatric specifications, and there are now two separate sorts of squirrels living on the canyon’s north and south borders. The north end of the canyon is home to Kaibab squirrels, whereas the south end is home to Abert squirrels. Despite the fact that these two species are nearly identical in size, shape, food, and colour variation, they do not interact or cross-breed. As a result, they are classified as distinct species.

ii. Parapatric Speciation

Parapatric speciation happens in a small group of individuals from the same population who are isolated from one another but whose ranges overlap in a narrow and limited way. This occurs as a result of an unequal distribution of subpopulation members or a restricted geographic barrier. This can happen when many subpopulations are close together.

Closely related populations can cross-breed in this way. People of a subpopulation differ somewhat. As a result of these differences, members at the extreme ends of the population are unable to cross-breed. The ring species refers to organisms that have undergone this form of speciation. Because the species are spread across such a large range of Parapatric speciation, they have a good possibility of interbreeding, but the members may only want to interbreed with those that live in their geographic area. The physical barrier does not divide the species into Parapatric speciation; rather, their differences in the same habitat isolate them.

Parapatric Speciation Examples

Parapatric speciation can develop as a result of a contaminated and polluted environment. Because of mining activities, there is a high level of metals such as lead and zinc in the soil, which is absorbed and affects the growth of some plants. Buffalo grass (also known as vanilla grass) may be found throughout Asia and Europe, for example. It’s also been discovered in North and South America. Buffalo grass could not thrive in metal-contaminated soil. Adaptation evolves over time, and it can now withstand metals, and the seeds transmit this trait to the following generation.

iii. Peripatric Speciation

Peripatric speciation occurs in a large population when members on the perimeter or on the boundary get isolated from the main group and establish a distinct species over time.

It’s tough to tell the difference between Peripatric and allopatric speciation. Because of physical obstacles, individuals of the allopatric speciation could not interbreed. The major difference between allopatric and Peripatric speciation is that one group is smaller than the other in Peripatric speciation. Small groups’ distinguishing characteristics are passed down to subsequent generations, becoming their remarkable and unique characteristics.

Peripatric speciation occurs when a smaller portion of the population splits off and moves to a new ecological setting, where they begin to live in a different habitat and consume different foods. Due to the limited size of the separated group, there may be an influence on the percentage of certain characters in the new population compared to the old.

Peripatric Speciation Example

Let’s take a look at a flock of birds. The majority of them are blue, with a few red ones thrown in for good measure. The red group, which is the smaller of the two, is separated from the blue group, which is the bigger. The smaller group’s next generation will now be red as well, which is a distinct characteristic from the larger blue group. Genetic Drift is the term for such changes in gene frequency. Many changes will occur throughout time, and red birds will emerge as an entirely new species.

Artificial Speciation

Another form that has lately evolved is artificial speciation. It’s when a person creates a new species. Experiments in the lab can result in the creation of new species. Scientists working on insects such as fruit flies are the most common.

Allopatric vs Sympatric Speciation

Geographic isolation resulted in the creation of new species through allopatric speciation, for example. Two species that dwell in the same geographical location but do not interbreed, resulting in their dispersion, is known as sympatric speciation. The mechanism employed in allopatric speciation is natural mechanism, whereas the other one is polyploidy mechanism.

Geographical location is seen in allopatric speciation, whereas in sympatric speciation no location required. The reproduction is slow in allopatric speciation. In sympatric speciation, production of offspring is quicker. Example of sympatric speciation are African tilapia and wheat. Allopatric speciation examples are squirrels and Darwin finches.

Sympatric Speciation in Evolution

The publication of Charles Darwin’s’ Origins of Species ‘in 1859 had a significant influence on the field of evolutionary biology. When evolution is carried out by the mechanism of natural selection, it is an extremely sluggish process, according to Darwin’s observations. He thought that this method might result in the emergence of new species, but evolution takes time. He also mentions the release of Origins of Species in his journal from around 20 years ago.

Darwin hypothesised two methods for species to emerge:

1. Evolution of a single species into two

2. A population diverges from its existing parents, resulting in the emergence of a new species.

When all members are in close proximity to one another, interbreed with one another, and there is no physical barrier or impediment between them, sympatric speciation occurs. Based on contrasting characteristics and food supplies, a new species can emerge naturally. Some members adapt to their surroundings and grow reliant on their food and shelter, while others do not.

It can also happen as a result of natural selection, or disruptive selection. A colony of herbivorous insects, for example, lives in the same region but eats two distinct kinds of plants. If the shift persists, it will result in the development of two distinct subpopulations, each with its own set of characteristics.

Gene Flow and Sympatric Speciation

The movement of genes into and out of a population is known as gene flow. Interbreeding allows individuals from two groups to share or transmit their genetic composition. This will not only reduce the disparities, but it will also reduce the diversity of the gene pool.

Immigration (the addition of new individuals to the population) and emigration are two common ways to limit gene flow (the leaving of members of the population). A population might gain or lose alleles as a result of large-scale geographic distance. Small populations are particularly affected by gene flows because people in a small population may carry a specific allele, which would be lost if they leave the community, but this is unlikely to happen in a big population because the other members still retain the same allele. When members immigrate or depart, alleles are introduced and lost as a result of gene flow.

However, gene flow may be decreased in sympatric speciation, which happens without geographic isolation or physical separation. Despite sharing the same geographical range, the establishment of a new niche is a major element in their speciation.

When two related populations thrive in the same region, the population is known as sympatric. If reproductive isolation does not occur, or if it does, it does not continue long enough for the two groups to finally speciate. Only when interbreeding between two subpopulations stops, indicating the presence of a natural reproductive barrier, can speciation occur.

Sympatric speciation will not occur as long as random interbreeding among all individuals continues. The populations can readily interbreed as long as they meet often in the same geographic region and the environmental circumstances stay relatively consistent. There are no exceptional selection pressures for any one feature that causes the gene pool to split into distinct populations.

Sympatric Speciation Citations


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