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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Jul 22;272(1571):1455-63.

Speciation: more likely through a genetic or through a learned habitat preference?

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  • 1Section Theoretical Biology, Institute of Biology, Leiden University, The Netherlands.


A problem in understanding sympatric speciation is establishing how reproductive isolation can arise when there is disruptive selection on an ecological trait. One of the solutions that has been proposed is that a habitat preference evolves, and that mates are chosen within the preferred habitat. We present a model where the habitat preference can evolve either by means of a genetic mechanism or by means of learning. Employing an adaptive-dynamical analysis, we show that evolution proceeds either to a single population of specialists with a genetic preference for their optimal habitat, or to a population of generalists without a habitat preference. The generalist population subsequently experiences disruptive selection. Learning promotes speciation because it increases the intensity of disruptive selection. An individual-based version of the model shows that, when loci are completely unlinked and learning confers little cost, the presence of disruptive selection most probably leads to speciation via the simultaneous evolution of a learned habitat preference. For high costs of learning, speciation is most likely to occur via the evolution of a genetic habitat preference. However, the latter only happens when the effect of mutations is large, or when there is linkage between genes coding for the different traits.

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