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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2010 Jun 12;365(1547):1749-62. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0269.

The roles of time and ecology in the continental radiation of the Old World leaf warblers (Phylloscopus and Seicercus).

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Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, 1101 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Many continental sister species are allopatric or parapatric, ecologically similar and long separated, of the order of millions of years. Sympatric, ecologically differentiated, species, are often even older. This raises the question of whether build-up of sympatric diversity generally follows a slow process of divergence in allopatry, initially without much ecological change. I review patterns of speciation among birds belonging to the continental Eurasian Old World leaf warblers (Phylloscopus and Seicercus). I consider speciation to be a three-stage process (range expansions, barriers to gene flow, reproductive isolation) and ask how ecological factors at each stage have contributed to speciation, both among allopatric/parapatric sister species and among those lineages that eventually led to currently sympatric species. I suggest that time is probably the critical factor that leads to reproductive isolation between sympatric species and that a strong connection between ecological divergence and reproductive isolation remains to be established. Besides reproductive isolation, ecological factors can affect range expansions (e.g. habitat tracking) and the formation of barriers (e.g. treeless areas are effective barriers for warblers). Ecological factors may often limit speciation on continents because range expansions are difficult in 'ecologically full' environments.

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