Modes of Speciation

The key to speciation is the evolution of genetic differences between the incipient species. For a lineage to split once and for all, the two incipient species must have genetic differences that are expressed in some way that causes matings between them to either not happen or to be unsuccessful. These need not be huge genetic differences. A small change in the timing, location, or rituals of mating could be enough. But still, some difference is necessary. This change might evolve by natural selection or genetic drift.

Reduced gene flow probably plays a critical role in speciation. Modes of speciation are often classified according to how much the geographic separation of incipient species can contribute to reduced gene flow. The following table compares some of these speciation modes.

Mode of speciation
New species formed from...
(allo = other, patric = place)
geographically isolated populations
allopatric speciation
(peri = near, patric = place)
a small population isolated at the edge of a larger population
peripatric speciation
(para = beside, patric = place)
a continuously distributed population
parapatric speciation
(sym = same, patric = place)
within the range of the ancestral population
sympatric speciation

Explore further
•  Allopatric speciation
•  Peripatric speciation
•  Parapatric speciation
•  Sympatric speciation
•  Evidence for speciation
•  Reproductive isolation
•  Cospeciation
•  Speciation in plants

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Spanish translation of Understanding Evolution For Teachers from the Spanish Society of Evolutionary Biology.