Conditions for mutation-order speciation

Patrik Nosil, Samuel M. Flaxman


Two models for speciation via selection have been proposed. In the well-known model of ‘ecological speciation’, divergent natural selection between environments drives the evolution of reproductive isolation. In a second ‘mutation-order’ model, different, incompatible mutations (alleles) fix in different populations adapting to the same selective pressure. How to demonstrate mutation-order speciation has been unclear, although it has been argued that it can be ruled out when gene flow occurs because the same, most advantageous allele will fix in all populations. However, quantitative examination of the interaction of factors influencing the likelihood of mutation-order speciation is lacking. We used simulation models to study how gene flow, hybrid incompatibility, selective advantage, timing of origination of new mutations and an initial period of allopatric differentiation affect population divergence via the mutation-order process. We find that at least some population divergence can occur under a reasonably wide range of conditions, even with moderate gene flow. However, strong divergence (e.g. fixation of different alleles in different populations) requires very low gene flow, and is promoted when (i) incompatible mutations have similar fitness advantages, (ii) less fit mutations arise slightly earlier in evolutionary time than more fit alternatives, and (iii) allopatric divergence occurs prior to secondary contact.

  • Received June 7, 2010.
  • Accepted July 23, 2010.
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