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Evolution. 2006 Nov;60(11):2185-206.

The conditions for speciation through intraspecific competition.

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  • 1Department of Mathematics, University of Vienna, Nordbergstrasse 15, 1090 Vienna, Austria.


It has been shown theoretically that sympatric speciation can occur if intraspecific competition is strong enough to induce disruptive selection. However, the plausibility of the involved processes is under debate, and many questions on the conditions for speciation remain unresolved. For instance, is strong disruptive selection sufficient for speciation? Which roles do genetic architecture and initial composition of the population play? How strong must assortative mating be before a population can split in two? These are some of the issues we address here. We investigate a diploid multilocus model of a quantitative trait that is under frequency-dependent selection caused by a balance of intraspecific competition and frequency-independent stabilizing selection. This trait also acts as mating character for assortment. It has been established previously that speciation can occur only if competition is strong enough to induce disruptive selection. We find that speciation becomes more difficult for very strong competition, because then extremely strong assortment is required. Thus, speciation is most likely for intermediate strengths of competition, where it requires strong, but not extremely strong, assortment. For this range of parameters, however, it is not obvious how assortment can evolve from low to high levels, because with moderately strong assortment less genetic variation is maintained than under weak or strong assortment-sometimes none at all. In addition to the strength of frequency-dependent competition and assortative mating, the roles of the number of loci, the distribution of allelic effects, the initial conditions, costs to being choosy, the strength of stabilizing selection, and the particular choice of the fitness function are explored. A multitude of possible evolutionary outcomes is observed, including loss of all genetic variation, splitting in two to five species, as well as very short and extremely long stable limit cycles. On the methodological side, we propose quantitative measures for deciding whether a given distribution reflects two (or more) reproductively isolated clusters.

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