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Am Nat. 2006 Oct;168(4):572-8. Epub 2006 Aug 31.

Will sympatric speciation fail due to stochastic competitive exclusion?

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  • 1Department of Theoretical Ecology, Ecology Building, Lund University, SE-22362 Lund, Sweden.


Sympatric speciation requires coexistence of the newly formed species. If divergence proceeds by small mutational steps, the new species utilize almost the same resources initially, and full speciation may be impeded by competitive exclusion in stochastic environments. We investigate this primarily ecological problem of sympatric speciation by studying the population dynamics of a diverging asexual population in a fluctuating environment. Correlation between species responses to environmental fluctuation is assumed to decrease with distance in trait space. Rapidly declining correlation in combination with high environmental variability may delay full speciation or even render it impossible. Stochastic extinctions impeding speciation are most likely when correlation decays faster than competition, for example, when demographic stochasticity is strong or when divergence is not accompanied by niche separation, such as in speciation driven entirely by sexual selection. Our general theoretical results show an interesting connection between short-term ecological dynamics and long-term, large-scale evolution.

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