The emergence of a new species: scientists clarify how this process works

The evolution of a new species is closely related to their ecology and behaviour, with choice of habitat (an area suitable for a living) playing a key role, though it may not be obvious at first glance. Scientists from Institute of Vertebrate Biology of the Czech Academy of Sciences (IVB CAS), who examined these factors during their research on the genetic processes responsible for the emergence of new species, have recently had two of their studies included in a special edition of the world’s oldest scientific journal, the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

Following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and his evolutionary theory, scientists are still trying to understand the processes involved in the emergence of new species (known as speciation). While there is a lot of evidence to support the process of differentiation of species from common ancestors, much less is known about how speciation proceeds to its final conclusion in the presence of emerging barriers that maintain genetic differences between the emerging species.

The ‘completion of speciation’ is the theme of a special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and two scientists from the IVB CAS, Pavel Payne and Stuart J. E. Baird, were invited to contribute to the journal. “Analysis of our mathematical models shows that the ability of living organisms to recognise and choose suitable habitats (or places to live) that provide suitable biotic and abiotic parameters, contributes to the development of biodiversity. This is essential for maintaining genetic differences and prevents the newly emerging species, which can still interbreed, from merging back into one species”, explained Pavel Payne.

The research, undertaken in collaboration with Stuart J. E. Baird of the IVB CAS and scientists from the University of Edinburgh (UK), has shown that genetic mutations beneficial to both emerging species, spreading across the emerging interspecies barrier, slow down the process of speciation. At a time when humans are manipulating and modifying the environment at an unprecedented rate, scientists believe that gaining an understanding of the mechanisms of speciation is now absolutely crucial as human activity can disrupt species barriers where emerging new species are not completely isolated. “By understanding what causes incomplete isolation, we will be better able to identify pairs of emerging species that could collapse under human influence, meaning that they would reach completion”, says Pavel Payne.

Where Darwin and Newton published

The special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, entitled “Towards the completion of speciation: the evolution of reproductive isolation beyond the first barriers”, combines theoretical and empirical work across taxa. In this issue, researchers discuss the mechanisms, and their combined effects, that might promote further isolation between two lines leading to divergence or differentiation.

The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society is the oldest scientific journal in the world, having first gone into publication in 1665. It was in this journal that Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin both published some of their important works. 

Link to Publication

publication, Pavel Payne:

publication, Stuart J. E.  Baird:

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