When I was at Evolution 2011 this summer, I heard a talk by Alex Papadopulos on sympatric speciation on Lord Howe island. Here's how I described that work at the time:
Alex Papadopulos talked about sympatric speciation on Lord Howe Island. Lord Howe is a lone island in the pacific 600 km east of Australia. He's found endemic sister species of flowering plants that must have speciated on the island itself. Granted, he estimates the frequency of Lord Howe species that originated by sympatric speciation to be only 4.5-8%, but still, I'm fascinated to see any example of sympatric speciation. I should add for those in the know that the examples he discussed were not simply polyploids (the most frequent and presumably simplest form of sympatric speciation).Yesterday, PNAS published his full paper. From the abstract:
Speciation with initially strong gene flow is thought to be extremely rare, and few convincing empirical examples have been published. However, using phylogenetic, karyological, and ecological data for the flora of a minute oceanic island (Lord Howe Island, LHI), we demonstrate that speciation with gene flow may, in fact, be frequent in some instances and could account for one in five of the endemic plant species of LHI. We present 11 potential instances of species divergence with gene flow, including an in situ radiation of five species of Coprosma (Rubiaceae, the coffee family). These results, together with the speciation of Howea palms on LHI, challenge current views on the origin of species diversity.Check it out:
Papadopulos et al. 2011. Speciation with gene flow on Lord Howe Island. PNAS 108:13188-13193.
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