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Waiting time to parapatric speciation

Sergey Gavrilets


Using a weak migration and weak mutation approximation, I studied the average waiting time to parapatric speciation. The description of reproductive isolation used is based on the classical Dobzhansky model and its recently proposed multilocus generalizations. The dynamics of parapatric speciation are modelled as a biased random walk performed by the average genetic distance between the residents and immigrants. If a small number of genetic changes is sufficient for complete reproductive isolation, mutation and random genetic drift alone can cause speciation on the time–scale of ten to 1000 times the inverse of the mutation rate over a set of loci underlying reproductive isolation. Even relatively weak selection for local adaptation can dramatically decrease the waiting time to speciation. The actual duration of the parapatric speciation process (that is the duration of intermediate forms in the actual transition to a state of complete reproductive isolation) is shorter by orders of magnitude than the overall waiting time to speciation. For a wide range of parameter values, the actual duration of parapatric speciation is of the order of one over the mutation rate. In general, parapatric speciation is expected to be triggered by changes in the environment.

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