Sunday, April 29, 2012

On speciation, the species problem and the role of species in evolution

This week's lab-meeting will be dedicated to the classical "species problem" in evolutionary biology and the role of species in ecology. We will start off with a brief presentation by Maren Wellenreuther about molecular identification of (putative) hybrid phenotypes between the two calopterygid damselflies (Calopteryx splendens and C. virgo) that she has been working on lately. I will also say a few words about my research trip to Texas, and the remarkable species diversity of odonates in this state (> 260 species in the state of Texas, about five times more than entire Sweden!).

Then, I was thinking we should discuss two recent idéa-articles, which should perhaps be a relatively easy read, and would hopefully be stimulating. One is on the state of the so-called "neutral theory" of species diversity in ecology, and the other is about species concepts and the ephemeral role of species in evolution. Phylogenetic comparative biologist Luke J. Harmon is co-author on both these papers, and one of the other authors is Rampall Etienne, who will be a plenary speaker at our ESF-funded meeting "The role of behaviour in non-adaptive and non-ecological speciation" in August this year. Here you can sign up to this meeting, which is free of charge and will take place on August 18 2012.

Our  lab-meeting  this coming week will take place on May 2, at 13.30 in the seminar room "Argumentet". Below, I provide the abstracts and links to these two interesting articles. You can download them here and here and also by clicking on the Abstract-links below. Enjoy!

The case for ecological neutral theory

Understanding the rate at which new species form is a key question in studying the evolution of life on earth. Here we review our current understanding of speciation rates, focusing on studies based on the fossil record, phylogenies, and mathematical models. We find that speciation rates estimated from these different studies can be dramatically different: some studies find that new species form quickly and often, while others find that new species form much less frequently. We suggest that instead of being contradictory, differences in speciation rates across different scales can be reconciled by a common model. Under the “ephemeral speciation model”, speciation is very common and very rapid but the new species produced almost never persist. Evolutionary studies should therefore focus on not only the formation but also the persistence of new species. 

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