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Sympatric Speciation in Birds Is Rare: Insights from Range Data and Simulations

Albert B. Phillimore, C. David L. Orme, Gavin H. Thomas, Tim M. Blackburn, Peter M. Bennett, Kevin J. Gaston and Ian P. F. Owens
The American Naturalist
Vol. 171, No. 5 (May 2008), pp. 646-657
DOI: 10.1086/587074
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/587074
Page Count: 12
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Sympatric Speciation in Birds Is Rare: Insights from Range Data and Simulations
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Abstract

Abstract: Sympatric speciation is now accepted as theoretically plausible and a likely explanation for divergence in a handful of taxa, but its contribution to large‐scale patterns of speciation remains contentious. A major problem is that it is difficult to differentiate between alternate scenarios of geographic speciation when species ranges have shifted substantially in the past. Previous studies have searched for a signal of the geographic mode of speciation by testing for a correlation between time since speciation and range overlap. Here we use simulations to show that the proportion of species showing zero or complete range overlap are more reliable indicators of the geography of speciation than is the correlation between time since speciation and overlap. We then apply these findings to the distributions of 291 pairs of avian sister species. Although 49% of pairs show some overlap in their ranges, our simulations show that this is not surprising under allopatric models of speciation. More revealingly, less than 2% show complete range overlap. Our simulations demonstrate that the observed patterns are most consistent with a model in which allopatric speciation is dominant but in which sympatric speciation is also present and contributes 5% of speciation events.

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