From Wildlife Extra:
New study could change the traditional view of how species come about
A team of researchers from the City University of New York working on the Península de Paraguaná in Venezuela have made a discovery that could revolutionise our understanding of how the origin of a new species takes place.
Up to now it has been accepted that the primary drivers in a species becoming isolated, and consequently developing sufficiently separate characteristics to become genetically distinct, are physical in nature – the uplift of mountains, the formation of islands, the change in the course of a river, creating barriers.
The findings of the study of two species of mouse opossums, Marmosa xerophila and Marmosa robinsoni, have now added interactions among species as another way that populations can become geographically isolated, which could promote the formation of new species.
In their paper the authors, Eliécer E Gutiérrez, Robert A Boria and Robert P Anderson, say that these interactions might include, ‘the presence of particularly effective predators or strong competitors, or the absence of important prey or essential mutualistic species.’
This new theory has come about as a result of observations on the Paraguaná peninsula, which is separated from the mainland only by a spit of sand, in which the researchers found that M. robinsoni has become separated from populations of the same species found on the mainland, not because the habitat in between is unsuitable, but because it is mostly occupied by M. xerophila.
The inability of individuals of that population of M. robinsoni to mate with individuals of mainland populations could, in time, lead to their genetic differentiation and the origin of a new species.
To read more about the study go to www.ecography.org/content/august-2014.