The early stages of the speciation process - prezygotic reproductive isolation and diversification in passerines
Research Council of Norway, FRIBIO, 2012-2015 (project number 213592)
Description of Project:
Speciation is a fundamental evolutionary process in which lineages diverge to form new species. Understanding speciation processes is essential for understanding the evolution of biodiversity. The current proposal will target the early stages of speciation by performing experimental tests of hitherto unexplored mechanisms of reproductive isolation, and by detailed analyses of deep within-species divergences. Are species with deep within-species genetic splits on their way to speciation, or do they represent formerly distinct lineages in the process of remerging? The project has three main aims: (1) to perform experimental tests of the importance of sperm differentiation and/or interactions beween male gametes and female reproductive fluid, as reproductive barrieres in pairs of hybridizing bird subspecies/lineages (bluethroat and redstart) and species (pied and collared flycatcher, house and Spanish sparrow), (2) to test whether two passerines, showing very high levels of intraspecific divergence in mtDNA in sympatry (redstart and raven), are examples of speciation in reverse, using multiple nuclear markers, and (3) to determine the relative role of sexual selection, natural selection and geographic isolation in promoting speciation, by performing comparative analyses of passerines with deep intraspecific and shallow interspecific divergences. By bringing together a team of world-leading scientist on speciation and sexual selection in birds, and combining ground-breaking experiments, advanced multilocus molecular analyses and comprehensive comparative analyses across passerines, this project promises to bring significant advances in our understanding of diversification and the early stages of speciation.