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Pereira, Ricardo J. ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8076-4822 and Singhal, Sonal ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5407-5567 (2022): A lizard with two tales: What diversification within Sceloporus occidentalis teaches us about species formation. In: Molecular Ecology, Vol. 31, No. 2: pp. 407-410 [PDF, 483kB]


In 1859, Charles Darwin proposed that species are not fundamentally different from subspecies or the varieties from which they evolve. A century later, Dobzhansky (1958) suggested that many such lineages are ephemeral and are likely to reverse differentiation through introgression (Figure 1a); only a few evolve complete reproductive isolation and persist in sympatry. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Bouzid et al. (2021) showed how new analytical methods, when applied to genomic data, allow us to more precisely determine whether or not species formation follows the paths outlined by Darwin and Dobzhansky (Figure 1b). The authors studied the diversification of the lizard Sceloporus occidentalis, finding a continuum of genetic interactions between the preservation of genetic identity to genetic merger, analogous to what is exemplified by ring species. In doing so, they teach us two tales about species formation: that lineages are fractal byproducts of evolutionary processes such as genetic drift and selection, and that lineages are often ephemeral and do not always progress into fully reproductively isolated taxa. Studying ephemeral lineages like those in S. occidentalis allows us to capture divergence at its earliest stages, and potentially to determine the factors that allow lineages to remain distinct despite pervasive gene flow. These lineages thus serve as a natural laboratory to address long standing hypotheses about species formation.

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