Sunday, April 15, 2012

On blogging, tweeting and non-ecological speciation

One of the reasons to have a scientific blog, whether an individual-based or a group-based one like ours, is that you might increase the attention to your research, and hopefully also increase the interest in your work, boost your citation rates and perhaps become more succesful as a scientist in grant applications. But is there any real evidence for this, or is it pure wishful thinking? As a matter of fact, some quantitative evidence is starting to accumulate now, that blogging and tweeting does increase the interest in your work, as judged by increasing number of downloads. Thus, unlike many other scientists who might consider blogging waste of time, I think it is a mistake to dismiss social media in the scientific process these days.

In the spirit of this, and with the hope to increase the interest in my research, I post my latest article that is published in Organisms, Diversity & Evolution and which is entitled: "Non-ecological speciation, niche conservatism and thermal adaptation: how are they connected?" It is a critical review of the current state of ecological speciation theory, its assumptions and limitations, and with a discussion about some alternatives to ecological speciation. Download it, read it or cite it (or do it all!)! I also present some thermal image data on the thermal niches of two sympatric calopterygid damselflies: Calopteryx splendens and C. virgo.

This paper was fun to write, and it largely grew out of discussions I had with Andrew Hendry and some other folks at Uppsala last year, when I visited the Evolutionary Biology Centre (EBC) in conjunction with the PhD-student defence's of Niclas Vallin and Paolo Innocenti. The Abstract and paper details are given below. Now, perhaps Maren Wellenreuther and Anna Runemark will post about some other recent lab-publications that have come out recently?


During the last decade, the ecological theory of adaptive radiation, and its corollary “ecological speciation”, has been a major research theme in evolutionary biology. Briefly, this theory states that speciation is mainly or largely the result of divergent selection, arising from niche differences between populations or incipient species. Reproductive isolation evolves either as a result of direct selection on mate preferences (e.g. reinforcement), or as a correlated response to divergent selection (“by-product speciation”). Although there are now many tentative examples of ecological speciation, I argue that ecology’s role in speciation might have been overemphasised and that non-ecological and non-adaptive alternatives should be considered more seriously. Specifically, populations and species of many organisms often show strong evidence of niche conservatism, yet are often highly reproductively isolated from each other. This challenges niche-based ecological speciation and reveals partial decoupling between ecology and reproductive isolation. Furthermore, reproductive isolation might often evolve in allopatry before ecological differentiation between taxa or possibly through learning and antagonistic sexual interactions, either in allopatry or sympatry. Here I discuss recent theoretical and empirical work in this area, with some emphasis on odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) and suggest some future avenues of research. A main message from this paper is that the ecology of species differences is not the same as ecological speciation, just like the genetics of species differences does not equate to the genetics of speciation.

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