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Genetics and the origin of bird species

Author(s): Grant, Peter R.; Grant, B. Rosemary

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Abstract: External (environmental) factors affecting the speciation of birds are better known than the internal (genetic) factors. The opposite is true for several groups of invertebrates, Drosophila being the outstanding example. Ideas about the genetics of speciation in general trace back to Dobzhansky who worked with Drosophila. These ideas are an insufficient guide for reconstructing speciation in birds for two main reasons. First, speciation in birds proceeds with the evolution of behavioral barriers to interbreeding; postmating isolation usually evolves much later, perhaps after gene exchange has all but ceased. As a consequence of the slow evolution of postmating isolating factors the scope for reinforcement of premating isolation is small, whereas the opportunity for introgressive hybridization to influence the evolution of diverging species is large. Second, premating isolation may arise from nongenetic, cultural causes; isolation may be affected partly by song, a trait that is culturally inherited through an imprinting-like process in many, but not all, groups of birds. Thus the genetic basis to the origin of bird species is to be sought in the inheritance of adult traits that are subject to natural and sexual selection. Some of the factors involved in premating isolation (plumage, morphology, and behavior) are under single-gene control, most are under polygenic control. The genetic basis of the origin of postmating isolating factors affecting the early development of embryos (viability) and reproductive physiology (sterility) is almost completely unknown. Bird speciation is facilitated by small population size, involves few genetic changes, and occurs relatively rapidly.
Publication Date: 22-Jul-1997
Citation: Grant, P.R., Grant, B.R. (1997). Genetics and the origin of bird species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 94 (15), 7768 - 7775. doi:10.1073/pnas.94.15.7768
DOI: doi:10.1073/pnas.94.15.7768
ISSN: 0027-8424
EISSN: 1091-6490
Pages: 7768 - 7775
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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