Perspective

Tipping points in the dynamics of speciation

  • Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, Article number: 0001 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41559-016-0001
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Abstract

Speciation can be gradual or sudden and involve few or many genetic changes. Inferring the processes generating such patterns is difficult, and may require consideration of emergent and non-linear properties of speciation, such as when small changes at tipping points have large effects on differentiation. Tipping points involve positive feedback and indirect selection stemming from associations between genomic regions, bi-stability due to effects of initial conditions and evolutionary history, and dependence on modularity of system components. These features are associated with sudden ‘regime shifts’ in other cellular, ecological, and societal systems. Thus, tools used to understand other complex systems could be fruitfully applied in speciation research.

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Acknowledgements

P.N. was supported by a University Research Fellowship from the Royal Society of London and the European Research Council (Grant NatHisGen R/129639); J.L.F. from grants from the National Science Foundation (USA) and the United States Department of Agriculture; and S.M.F. by NSF DEB award #1627483. For comments on earlier versions of this manuscript, we thank a graduate class on speciation at the University of Notre Dame and N. Bierne. We also thank N. Bierne for prompting the development of Box 1. R. Ribas drew all the figures.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.

    • Patrik Nosil
  2. Department of Biology, Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana 11111, USA.

    • Jeffrey L. Feder
  3. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.

    • Samuel M. Flaxman
  4. Department of Biology, Utah State University, Logan, Utah 84322, USA.

    • Zachariah Gompert

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Contributions

P.N., S.M.F., J.F. and Z.G. conceived the project and wrote the paper. S.M.F. ran the simulations and analysed them.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Patrik Nosil.

Supplementary information

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  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    Simulations and calculations used to generate results in Box 1.