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Chapter 24 - The Origin of Species

Chapter 24 The Origin of Species
Lecture Outline

Overview: That “Mystery of Mysteries”

  • Darwin visited the Galápagos Islands and found them filled with plants and animals that lived nowhere else in the world.
    • He realized that he was observing newly emerged species on these young islands.
  • Speciation—the origin of new species—is at the focal point of evolutionary theory because the appearance of new species is the source of biological diversity.
  • Microevolution is the study of adaptive change in a population.
  • Macroevolution addresses evolutionary changes above the species level.
    • It deals with questions such as the appearance of evolutionary novelties (e.g., feathers and flight in birds) that can be used to define higher taxa.
  • Speciation addresses the question of how new species originate and develop through the subdivision and subsequent divergence of gene pools.
  • The fossil record chronicles two patterns of speciation: anagenesis and cladogenesis.
  • Anagenesis, phyletic evolution, is the accumulation of changes associated with the gradual transformation of one species into another.
  • Cladogenesis, branching evolution, is the budding of one or more new species from a parent species.
    • Only cladogenesis promotes biological diversity by increasing the number of species.

Concept 24.1 The biological species concept emphasizes reproductive isolation

  • Species is a Latin word meaning “kind” or “appearance.”
    • Traditionally, morphological differences have been used to distinguish species.
    • Today, differences in body function, biochemistry, behavior, and genetic makeup are also used to differentiate species.
  • Are organisms truly divided into the discrete units we called species, or is this classification an arbitrary attempt to impose order on the natural world?
  • In 1942, Ernst Mayr proposed the biological species concept.
    • A species is defined as a population or group of populations whose members have the potential to breed with each other in nature to produce viable, fertile offspring, but who cannot produce viable, fertile offspring with members of other species.
    • A biological species is the largest set of populations in which genetic exchange is possible and that is genetically isolated from other populations.
  • Species are based on interfertility, not physical similarity.
  • For example, eastern and western meadowlarks have similar shapes and coloration, but differences in song help prevent interbreeding between the two species.
  • In contrast, humans have considerable diversity, but we all belong to the same species because of our capacity to interbreed.

    Prezygotic and postzygotic barriers isolate the gene pools of biological species.

  • Because the distinction between biological species depends on reproductive incompatibility, the concept hinges on reproductive isolation, the existence of biological barriers that prevent members of two species from producing viable, fertile hybrids.
  • A single barrier may not block all genetic exchange between species, but a combination of several barriers can effectively isolate a species’ gene pool.
    • Typically, these barriers are intrinsic to the organisms, not due to simple geographic separation.
    • Reproductive isolation prevents populations belonging to different species from interbreeding, even if their ranges overlap.
  • Reproductive barriers can be categorized as prezygotic or postzygotic, depending on whether they function before or after the formation of zygotes.
  • Prezygotic barriers impede mating between species or hinder fertilization of ova if members of different species attempt to mate.
    • These barriers include habitat isolation, behavioral isolation, temporal isolation, mechanical isolation, and gametic isolation.
  • Habitat isolation. Two organisms that use different habitats (even in the same geographic area) are unlikely to encounter each other to even attempt mating.
    • Two species of garter snakes in the genus Thamnophis occur in the same areas. Because one lives mainly in water and the other is primarily terrestrial, they rarely encounter each other.
  • Behavioral isolation. Many species use elaborate courtship behaviors unique to the species to attract mates.
    • In many species, elaborate courtship displays identify potential mates of the correct species and synchronize gonadal maturation.
    • In the blue-footed booby, males perform a high-step dance that calls the female’s attention to the male’s bright blue feet.
  • Temporal isolation. Two species that breed during different times of day, different seasons, or different years cannot mix gametes.
    • The geographic ranges of the western spotted skunk and the eastern spotted skunk overlap. However, they do not interbreed because the former mates in late summer and the latter in late winter.
  • Mechanical isolation. Closely related species may attempt to mate but fail because they are anatomically incompatible and transfer of sperm is not possible.
    • For example, mechanical barriers contribute to the reproductive isolation of flowering plants that are pollinated by insects or other animals.
    • With many insects, the male and female copulatory organs of closely related species do not fit together, preventing sperm transfer.
  • Gametic isolation. The gametes of two species do not form a zygote because of incompatibilities preventing fertilization.
    • In species with internal fertilization, the environment of the female reproductive tract may not be conducive to the survival of sperm from other species.
    • For species with external fertilization, gamete recognition may rely on the presence of specific molecules on the egg’s coat, which adhere only to specific molecules on sperm cells of the same species.
    • A similar molecular recognition mechanism enables a flower to discriminate between pollen of the same species and pollen of a different species.
  • If a sperm from one species does fertilize the ovum of another, postzygotic barriers may prevent the hybrid zygote from developing into a viable, fertile adult.
    • These barriers include reduced hybrid viability, reduced hybrid fertility, and hybrid breakdown.
  • Reduced hybrid viability. Genetic incompatibility between the two species may abort the development of the hybrid at some embryonic stage or produce frail offspring.
    • This is true for the occasional hybrids between frogs in the genus Rana. Most do not complete development, and those that do are frail.
  • Reduced hybrid fertility. Even if the hybrid offspring are vigorous, the hybrids may be infertile, and the hybrid cannot backbreed with either parental species.
    • This infertility may be due to problems in meiosis because of differences in chromosome number or structure.
    • For example, while a mule, the hybrid product of mating between a horse and donkey, is a robust organism, it cannot mate (except very rarely) with either horses or donkeys.
  • Hybrid breakdown. In some cases, first generation hybrids are viable and fertile.
    • However, when they mate with either parent species or with each other, the next generation is feeble or sterile.
    • Strains of cultivated rice have accumulated different mutant recessive alleles at two loci in the course of their divergence from a common ancestor.
    • Hybrids between them are vigorous and fertile, but plants in the next generation that carry too many of these recessive alleles are small and sterile.
    • These strains are in the process of speciating.
  • Reproductive barriers can occur before mating, between mating and fertilization, or after fertilization.

    The biological species concept has some major limitations.

  • While the biological species concept has had an important impact on evolutionary theory, it is limited when applied to species in nature.
    • For example, one cannot test the reproductive isolation of morphologically similar fossils, which are separated into species based on morphology.
    • Even for living species, we often lack information on interbreeding needed to apply the biological species concept.
    • In addition, many species (e.g., bacteria) reproduce entirely asexually and are assigned to species based mainly on structural and biochemical characteristics.
    • Many bacteria transfer genes by conjugation and other processes, but this transfer is different from sexual recombination.

    Evolutionary biologists have proposed several alternative concepts of species.

  • Several alternative species concepts emphasize the processes that unite the members of a species.
  • The ecological species concept defines a species in terms of its ecological niche, the set of environmental resources that a species uses and its role in a biological community.
    • As an example, a species that is a parasite may be defined in part by its adaptations to a specific organism.
    • This concept accommodates asexual and sexual species.
  • The paleontological species concept focuses on morphologically discrete species known only from the fossil record.
    • There is little or no information about the mating capability of fossil species, and the biological species concept is not useful for them.
  • The phylogenetic species concept defines a species as a set of organisms with a unique genetic history.
    • Biologists compare the physical characteristics or molecular sequences of species to those of other organisms to distinguish groups of individuals that are sufficiently different to be considered separate species.
    • Sibling species are species that appear so similar that they cannot be distinguished on morphological grounds.
    • Scientists apply the biological species concept to determine if the phylogenetic distinction is confirmed by reproductive incompatibility.
  • The morphological species concept, the oldest and still most practical, defines a species by a unique set of structural features.
    • The morphological species concept has certain advantages. It can be applied to asexual and sexual species, and it can be useful even without information about the extent of gene flow.
    • However, this definition relies on subjective criteria, and researchers sometimes disagree about which structural features identify a species.
    • In practice, scientists use the morphological species concept to distinguish most species.
  • Each species concept may be useful, depending on the situation and the types of questions we are asking.

Concept 24.2 Speciation can take place with or without geographic separation

  • Two general modes of speciation are distinguished by the way gene flow among populations is initially interrupted.
  • In allopatric speciation, geographic separation of populations restricts gene flow.
  • In sympatric speciation, speciation occurs in geographically overlapping populations when biological factors, such as chromosomal changes and nonrandom mating, reduce gene flow.

    Allopatric speciation: geographic barriers can lead to the origin of species.

  • Several geological processes can fragment a population into two or more isolated populations.
    • Mountain ranges, glaciers, land bridges, or splintering of lakes may divide one population into isolated groups.
    • Alternatively, some individuals may colonize a new, geographically remote area and become isolated from the parent population.
      • For example, mainland organisms that colonized the Galápagos Islands were isolated from mainland populations.
  • How significant a barrier must be to limit gene exchange depends on the ability of organisms to move about.
    • A geological feature that is only a minor hindrance to one species may be an impassible barrier to another.
    • The valley of the Grand Canyon is a significant barrier for the ground squirrels that have speciated on opposite sides.
    • For birds that can fly across the canyon, it is no barrier.
  • Once geographic separation is established, the separated gene pools may begin to diverge through a number of mechanisms.
    • Mutations arise.
    • Sexual selection favors different traits in the two populations.
    • Different selective pressures in differing environments act on the two populations.
    • Genetic drift alters allele frequencies.
  • A small, isolated population is more likely to have its gene pool changed substantially over a short period of time by genetic drift and natural selection.
    • For example, less than 2 million years ago, small populations of stray plants and animals from the South American mainland colonized the Galápagos Islands and gave rise to the species that now inhabit the islands.
  • However, very few small, isolated populations develop into new species; most simply persist or perish in their new environment.
  • To confirm that allopatric speciation has occurred, it is necessary to determine whether the separated populations have become different enough that they can no longer interbreed and produce fertile offspring when they come back in contact.
    • In some cases, researchers bring together members of separated populations in a laboratory setting.
    • Biologists can also assess allopatric speciation in the wild.
      • For example, females of the Galápagos ground finch Geospiza difficilis respond to the songs of males from the same island but ignore the songs of males of the same species from other islands.

    Sympatric speciation: a new species can originate in the geographic midst of the parent species.

  • In sympatric speciation, new species arise within the range of the parent populations.
    • Here reproductive barriers must evolve between sympatric populations.
    • In plants, sympatric speciation can result from accidents during cell division that result in extra sets of chromosomes, a mutant condition known as polyploidy.
    • In animals, it may result from gene-based shifts in habitat or mate preference.
  • An individual can have more than two sets of chromosomes.
    • An autopolyploid mutant is an individual that has more than two chromosome sets, all derived from a single species.
    • For example, a failure of mitosis or meiosis can double a cell’s chromosome number from diploid (2n) to tetraploid (4n).
    • The tetraploid can reproduce with itself (self-pollination) or with other tetraploids.
    • It cannot mate with diploids from the original population, because of abnormal meiosis by the triploid hybrid offspring.
  • A more common mechanism of producing polyploid individuals occurs when allopolyploid offspring are produced by the mating of two different species.
    • While the hybrids are usually sterile, they may be quite vigorous and propagate asexually.
    • In subsequent generations, various mechanisms may transform a sterile hybrid into a fertile polyploid.
    • These polyploid hybrids are fertile with each other but cannot breed with either parent species.
    • They thus represent a new biological species.
  • The origin of polyploid plant species is common and rapid enough that scientists have documented several such speciations in historical times.
    • For example, two new species of plants called goatsbeard (Tragopodon) appeared in Idaho and Washington in the early 1900s.
    • They are the results of allopolyploidy events between pairs of introduced European Tragopodon species.
  • Many plants important for agriculture are polyploid.
    • For example, wheat is an allohexaploid, with six sets of chromosomes from three different species.
    • Oats, cotton, potatoes, and tobacco are polyploid.
    • Plant geneticists now use chemicals that induce meiotic and mitotic errors to create new polyploid plants with special qualities.
      • One example is an artificial hybrid combining the high yield of wheat with the hardiness and disease resistance of rye.
  • While polyploid speciation does occur in animals, other mechanisms also contribute to sympatric speciation in animals.
    • Reproductive isolation can result when genetic factors cause individuals to exploit resources not used by the parent.
    • One example is the North American maggot fly, Rhagoletis pomonella.
      • The fly’s original habitat was native hawthorn trees.
      • About 200 years ago, some populations colonized newly introduced apple trees.
      • Because apples mature more quickly than hawthorn fruit, the apple-feeding flies have been selected for more rapid development and now show temporal isolation from the hawthorn-feeding maggot flies.
      • Speciation is underway.
  • Sympatric speciation is one mechanism that has been proposed for the explosive adaptive radiation of cichlid fishes in Lake Victoria, Africa.
    • This vast, shallow lake has filled and dried up repeatedly due to climate changes.
    • The current lake is only 12,000 years old but is home to 600 species of cichlid fishes.
      • The species are so genetically similar that many have likely arisen since the lake last filled.
    • While these species are clearly specialized for exploiting different food resources and other resources, nonrandom mating in which females select males based on a certain appearance has probably contributed, too.
  • Individuals of two closely related sympatric cichlid species will not mate under normal light because females have specific color preferences and males differ in color.
    • However, under light conditions that de-emphasize color differences, females will mate with males of the other species and produce viable, fertile offspring.
    • It seems likely that the ancestral population was polymorphic for color and that divergence began with the appearance of two ecological niches that divided the fish into subpopulations.
    • Genetic drift resulted in chance differences in the genetic makeup of the subpopulations, with different male colors and female preferences.
    • Sexual selection reinforced the color differences.
    • The lack of postzygotic barriers in this case suggests that speciation occurred relatively recently.
    • As pollution clouds the waters of Lake Victoria, it becomes more difficult for female cichlids to see differences in male color.
    • The gene pools of these two closely related species may blend again.
  • We will summarize the differences between sympatric and allopatric speciation.
  • In allopatric speciation, a new species forms while geographically isolated from its parent population.
    • As the isolated population accumulates genetic differences due to natural selection and genetic drift, reproductive isolation from the ancestral species may arise as a by-product of the genetic change.
    • Such reproductive barriers prevent breeding with the parent even if the populations reestablish contact.
  • Sympatric speciation requires the emergence of some reproductive barrier that isolates a subset of the population without geographic separation from the parent population.
    • In plants, the most common mechanism is hybridization between species or errors in cell division that lead to polyploid individuals.
    • In animals, sympatric speciation may occur when a subset of the population is reproductively isolated by a switch in food source or by sexual selection in a polymorphic population.
  • The evolution of many diversely adapted species from a common ancestor when new environmental opportunities arise is called adaptive radiation.
  • Adaptive radiation occurs when a few organisms make their way into new areas or when extinction opens up ecological niches for the survivors.
    • A major adaptive radiation of mammals followed the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
  • The Hawaiian archipelago is a showcase of adaptive radiation.
    • Located 3,500 km from the nearest continent, the volcanic islands were formed “naked” and gradually populated by stray organisms that arrived by wind or ocean currents.
    • The islands are physically diverse, with a range of altitudes and rainfall.
    • Multiple invasions and allopatric and sympatric speciation events have ignited an explosion of adaptive radiation of novel species.

    Researchers study the genetics of speciation.

  • Researchers have made great strides in understanding the role of genes in particular speciation events.
  • Douglas Schemske and his colleagues at Michigan State University examined two species of Mimulus.
    • The two species are pollinated by bees and hummingbirds respectively, keeping their gene pools separate through prezygotic isolation.
    • The species show no postzygotic isolation and can be mated readily in the greenhouse to produce hybrids with flowers that vary in color and shape.
    • Researchers observed which pollinators visit which flowers and then investigated the genetic differences between plants.
    • Two gene loci have been identified that are largely responsible for pollinator choice.
    • One locus influences flower color; the other affects the amount of nectar flowers produce.
    • By determining attractiveness of the flowers to different pollinators, allelic diversity at these loci has led to speciation.

    The tempo of speciation is important.

  • In the fossil record, many species appear as new forms rather suddenly (in geologic terms), persist essentially unchanged, and then disappear from the fossil record.
  • Darwin noted this when he remarked that species appeared to undergo modifications during relatively short periods of their total existence and then remained essentially unchanged.
  • Paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould coined the term punctuated equilibrium to describe these periods of apparent stasis punctuated by sudden change.
  • Some scientists suggest that these patterns require an explanation outside the Darwinian model of descent with modification.
    • However, this is not necessarily the case.
  • Suppose that a species survived for 5 million years, but most of its morphological alterations occurred in the first 50,000 years of its existence—just 1% of its total lifetime.
    • Because time periods this short often cannot be distinguished in fossil strata, the species would seem to have appeared suddenly and then lingered with little or no change before becoming extinct.
    • Even though the emergence of this species actually took tens of thousands of years, this period of change left no fossil record.
  • Stasis can also be explained.
    • All species continue to adapt after they arise, but often by changes that do not leave a fossil record, such as small biochemical modifications.
  • Paleontologists base hypotheses of descent almost entirely on external morphology.
    • During periods of apparent equilibrium, changes in behavior, internal anatomy, and physiology may not leave a fossil record.
  • If the environment changes, the stasis will be broken by punctuations that leave visible traces in the fossil record.

Concept 24.3 Macroevolutionary changes can accumulate through many speciation events

  • Speciation is at the boundary between microevolution and macroevolution.
    • Microevolution is a change over generations in a population’s allele frequencies, mainly by genetic drift and natural selection.
    • Speciation occurs when a population’s genetic divergence from its ancestral population results in reproductive isolation.
    • While the changes after any speciation event may be subtle, the cumulative change over millions of speciation episodes must account for macroevolution, the scale of changes seen in the fossil record.

    Most evolutionary novelties are modified versions of older structures.

  • The Darwinian concept of descent with modification can account for the major morphological transformations of macroevolution.
  • It may be difficult to believe that a complex organ like the human eye could be the product of gradual evolution, rather than a finished design created specially for humans.
  • However, the key is to remember is that a very simple eye can be very useful to an animal.
  • The simplest eyes are just clusters of photoreceptors, light-sensitive pigmented cells.
  • These simple eyes appear to have had a single evolutionary origin.
    • They are now found in a variety of animals, including limpets.
  • These simple eyes have no lenses and cannot focus an image, but they do allow the animal to distinguish light from dark.
    • Limpets cling tightly to their rocks when a shadow falls on them, reducing their risk of predation.
  • Complex eyes have evolved several times independently in the animal kingdom.
    • Examples of various levels of complexity, from clusters of photoreceptors to camera-like eyes, can be seen in molluscs.
    • The most complex types did not evolve in one quantum leap, but by incremental adaptation of organs that benefited their owners at each stage.
  • Evolutionary novelties can also arise by gradual refinement of existing structures for new functions.
    • Structures that evolve in one context, but become co-opted for another function, are exaptations.
  • It is important to recognize that natural selection can only improve a structure in the context of its current utility, not in anticipation of the future.
  • An example of an exaptation is the changing function of lightweight, honeycombed bones of birds.
    • The fossil record indicates that light bones predated flight.
    • Therefore, they must have had some function on the ground, perhaps as a light frame for agile, bipedal dinosaurs.
    • Once flight became an advantage, natural selection would have remodeled the skeleton to better fit their additional function.
    • The wing-like forelimbs and feathers that increased the surface area of these forelimbs were co-opted for flight after functioning in some other capacity, such as courtship, thermoregulation, or camouflage.

    Genes that control development play a major role in evolution.

  • “Evo-devo” is a field of interdisciplinary research that examines how slight genetic divergences can become magnified into major morphological differences between species.
  • A particular focus is on genes that program development by controlling the rate, timing, and spatial pattern of changes in form as an organism develops from a zygote to an adult.
  • Heterochrony, an evolutionary change in the rate or timing of developmental events, has led to many striking evolutionary transformations.
  • Allometric growth tracks how proportions of structures change due to different growth rates during development.
  • Change relative rates of growth even slightly, and you can change the adult form substantially.
    • Different allometric patterns contribute to the contrast of adult skull shapes between humans and chimpanzees, which both developed from fairly similar fetal skulls.
  • Heterochrony appears to be responsible for differences in the feet of tree-dwelling versus ground-dwelling salamanders.
    • The feet of the tree-dwellers are adapted for climbing vertically, with shorter digits and more webbing.
    • This modification may have evolved due to mutations in the alleles that control the timing of foot development.
    • Stunted feet may have resulted if regulatory genes switched off foot growth early.
    • In this way, a relatively small genetic change can be amplified into substantial morphological change.
  • Another form of heterochrony is concerned with the relative timing of reproductive development and somatic development.
  • If the rate of reproductive development accelerates compared to somatic development, then a sexually mature stage can retain juvenile structures—a process called paedomorphosis.
    • Some species of salamander have the typical external gills and flattened tail of an aquatic juvenile, but have functioning gonads.
  • Macroevolution can also result from changes in genes that control the placement and spatial organization of body parts.
    • For example, genes called homeotic genes determine such basic features as where a pair of wings and a pair of legs will develop on a bird or how a plant’s flower parts are arranged.
  • The products of one class of homeotic genes, the Hox genes, provide positional information in an animal embryo.
    • This information prompts cells to develop into structures appropriate for a particular location.
  • One major transition in the evolution of vertebrates is the development of the walking legs of tetrapods from the fins of fishes.
    • A fish fin that lacks external skeletal support evolved into a tetrapod limb that extends skeletal supports (digits) to the tip of the limb.
    • This may be the result of changes in the positional information provided by Hox genes during limb development, determining how far digits and other bones should extend from the limb.

    Evolution is not goal oriented.

  • The fossil record shows apparent evolutionary trends.
    • For example, the evolution of the modern horse can be interpreted to have been a steady series of changes from a small, browsing ancestor (Hyracotherium) with four toes to modern horses (Equus) with only one toe per foot and teeth modified for grazing on grasses.
  • It is possible to arrange a succession of animals intermediate between Hyracotherium and modern horses to show trends toward increased size, reduced number of toes, and modifications of teeth for grazing.
  • If we look at all fossil horses, the illusion of coherent, progressive evolution leading directly to modern horses vanishes.
    • Equus is the only surviving twig of an evolutionary bush that included several adaptive radiations among both grazers and browsers.
  • Differences among species in survival can also produce a macroevolutionary trend.
  • The species selection model developed by Steven Stanley considers species as analogous to individuals.
    • Speciation is their birth, extinction is their death, and new species are their offspring.
  • In this model, Stanley suggests that just as individual organisms undergo natural selection, species undergo species selection.
  • The species that endure the longest and generate the greatest number of new species determine the direction of major evolutionary trends.
  • The species selection model suggests that “differential speciation success” plays a role in macroevolution similar to the role of differential reproductive success in microevolution.
  • To the extent that speciation rates and species longevity reflect success, the analogy to natural selection is even stronger.
    • However, qualities unrelated to the overall success of organisms in specific environments may be equally important in species selection.
    • As an example, the ability of a species to disperse to new locations may contribute to its giving rise to a large number of “daughter species.”
  • The appearance of an evolutionary trend does not imply some intrinsic drive toward a preordained state of being.
    • Evolution is a response to interactions between organisms and their current environments, leading to changes in evolutionary trends as conditions change.

    Lecture Outline for Campbell/Reece Biology, 7th Edition, © Pearson Education, Inc. 24-1

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