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Laboratory experiments of speciation have been conducted for all four modes of speciation: allopatric, peripatric, parapatric, and sympatric; and various other processes involving speciation: hybridization, reinforcement, founder effects, among others. Most of the experiments have been done on flies, in particular Drosophila fruit flies.[1] However, more recent studies have tested yeasts, fungi, and even viruses.

A simplification of an allopatric speciation experiment where two lines of fruit flies are raised on maltose and starch media

It has been suggested that laboratory experiments are not conducive to vicariant speciation events (allopatric and peripatric) due to their small population sizes and limited generations.[2] Most estimates from studies of nature indicate that speciation takes hundreds of thousands to millions of years.[3] On the other hand, many species are thought to have speciated faster and more recently, such as the European flounders (Platichthys flesus) that spawn in pelagic and demersal zones—having allopatrically speciated in under 3000 generations.[4]

Table of experiments

Six publications have attempted to compile, review, and analyze the experimental research on speciation:

  1. John Ringo, David Wood, Robert Rockwell, and Harold Dowse in 1985;[5]
  2. William R. Rice and Ellen E. Hostert in 1993;[6]
  3. Ann-Britt Florin and Anders Ödeen in 2002;[2]
  4. Mark Kirkpatrick and Virginie Ravigné in 2002;[7]
  5. Jerry A. Coyne and H. Allen Orr in 2004;[1] and
  6. James D. Fry in 2009.[8]

The table summarizes the studies and data reviewed in these publications. It also references several contemporary experiments and is non-exhaustive.In the table, multiple numbers separated by semi-colons in the generations column indicate that multiple experiments were conducted. The replications (in parentheses) indicates the number of populations used in the experiments—i.e. how many times the experiment was replicated. Various types of selection have been imposed on experimental populations and are indicated by the selection type column. Negative or positive results of each experiment are provided by the reproductive isolation column. Pre-zygotic reproductive isolation means that the reproducing individuals in the populations were unable to produce offspring (effectively a positive result). Post-zygotic isolation means that the reproducing individuals were able to produce offspring but they were either sterile or inviable (a positive result as well). Negative results are indicated by "none"—that is, the experiments did not result in reproductive isolation.

Laboratory experiments of speciation[1][6][7][2][8]
SpeciesTraitGenerations (replications) [duration]TestedSelection typeStudied genetic driftReproductive isolationReferenceYear
Drosophila melanogasterEscape response18Vicariant, reinforcement, parapatric/


Indirect; divergentYesPre-zygoticGrant & Mettler[9]1969
D. melanogasterLocomotion112VicariantIndirect; divergentNoPre-zygoticBurnet & Connolly[10]1974
D. melanogasterTemperature, humidity70–130VicariantIndirect; divergentYesPre-zygoticKilias et al.[11]1980
D. melanogasterDDT adaptation600 [25 years, +15 years]VicariantDirectNoPre-zygoticBoake et al.[12]2003
D. melanogaster17, 9, 9, 1, 1, 7, 7, 7, 7Vicariant; parapatric/


Direct, divergentPre-zygotic in vicariance; none with gene flowBarker & Karlsson[13]1974
D. melanogaster40; 50ReinforcementDirect; divergentPre-zygoticCrossley[14]1974
D. melanogasterLocomotion45VicariantDirect; divergentNoNonevan Dijken & Scharloo[15][16]1979
D. melanogasterReinforcementDirect; divergentPre-zygoticWallace[17]1953
D. melanogaster36; 31ReinforcementDirect; divergentPre-zygoticKnight[18]1956
D. melanogasterEDTA adaptation25, 25, 25, 14Semi-allopatric, reinforcementIndirect; divergentNoPost-zygoticRobertson[19][20]1966
D. melanogaster25 (8)Vicariant; reinforcement; parapatric; sympatricDirectNoneHostert[21]1997
D. melanogasterAbdominal chaeta


21–31VicariantDirectYesNoneSantibanez & Waddington[22]1958
D. melanogasterSternopleural chaeta number32Vicariant, reinforcement, parapatric/


DirectNoNoneBarker & Cummins[23]1969
D. melanogasterPhototaxis, geotaxis20VicariantNoNoneMarkow[24][25]1975; 1981
D. melanogasterPeripatricYesRundle et al.[26]1998
D. melanogasterVicariant; peripatricYesMooers et al.[27]1999
D. melanogaster12ReinforcementDivergentPre-zygoticThoday & Gibson[28]1962
D. melanogasterNoneThoday & Gibson[29][30]1970; 1971
D. melanogaster16ReinforcementIndirectNoneSpiess & Wilke[31]1954
D. melanogasterReinforcementDirect; divergentPre-zygoticEhrman[32][33][34][35]1971; 1973; 1979; 1983
D. melanogasterSternopleural chaeta number5; 27; 27; 1; 1; 1; 1; 1Parapatric/


D. melanogasterNoneScharloo[37]1967
D. melanogaster1, 1Coyne & Grant[38]1972
D. melanogaster25Rice[39]1985
D. melanogaster25DisruptivePre-zygoticRice & Salt[40]1988
D. melanogaster35; 35SympatricPre-zygoticRice & Salt[41]1990
D. melanogasterNaCl and CuSO4 levels in food[3 years in allopatry, 1 in sympatry]Allopatric; reinforcement; sympatricPre-zygotic in allopatry, none in sympatryWallace[42]1982
D. melanogasterReinforcementEhrman et al.[43]1991
D. melanogasterReinforcementFukatami & Moriwaki[44]1970
Drosophila simulansScutellar bristles, development speed, wing width; desiccation resistance, fecundity, ethanol resistance; courtship display, re-mating speed, lek behavior; pupation height, clumped egg laying, general activity[3 years]Vicariant; peripatricYesPost-zygoticRingo et al.[5]1985
Drosophila paulistorum131; 131ReinforcementDirectPre-zygoticDobzhansky et al.[45]1976
D. paulistorum[5 years]VicariantDobzhansky and Pavlovsky[46]1966
Drosophila willistonipH adaptation34–122VicariantIndirect; divergentNoPre-zygoticKalisz & Cordeiro[47]1980
Drosophila pseudoobscuraCarbohydrate source12VicariantIndirectYesPre-zygoticDodd[48]1989
D. pseudoobscuraTemperature adaptation25–60VicariantDirectEhrman[49][50][51][52][53]1964;


D. pseudoobscuraPhototaxis, geotaxis5–11VicariantIndirectNoPre-zygoticdel Solar[54]1966
D. pseudoobscuraVicariant; peripatricPre-zygoticPowell[55][56]1978; 1985
D. pseudoobscuraPeripatric; vicariantYesGaliana et al.[57]1993
D. pseudoobscuraTemperature photoperiod; food37 (78) [33–34 months]VicariantDivergentYesNoneRundle[58]2003
D. pseudoobscura &

Drosophila persimilis

22; 16; 9ReinforcementDirect; divergentPre-zygoticKoopman[59]1950
D. pseudoobscura &

D. persimilis

18 (4)DirectPre-zygoticKessler[60]1966
Drosophila mojavensis12DirectPre-zygoticKoepfer[61]1987
D. mojavensisDevelopment time13DivergentYesNoneEtges[62]1998
Drosophila adiastolaPeripatricYesPre-zygoticArita & Kaneshiro[63]1974
Drosophila silvestrisPeripatricYesAhearn[64]1980
Musca domesticaGeotaxis38VicariantIndirectNoPre-zygoticSoans et al.[65]1974
M. domesticaGeotaxis16VicariantDirect; divergentNoPre-zygoticHurd & Eisenburg[66]1975
M. domesticaPeripatricYesMeffert & Bryant[67]1991
M. domesticaRegan et al.[68]2003
Bactrocera cucurbitaeDevelopment time40–51DivergentYesPre-zygoticMiyatake & Shimizu[69]1999
Zea mays6; 6ReinforcementDirect; divergentPre-zygoticPaterniani[70]1969
Drosophila grimshawiPeripatricJones, Widemo, & Arrendal[71]N/A
Saccharomyces cerevisiaeLeu & Murry[72]2006
D. melanogasterReinforcementHarper & Lambert[73]1983
Tribolium castaneumPupal weight15 (6)DisruptiveHalliburton & Gall[74]1983
D. melanogasterGeotaxisDivergentLofdahl et al.[75]1992
D. pseudoobscura[10 years]Moya et al.[76]1995
NeurosporaDivergentDettman et al.[77]2008
S. cerevisiae500DivergentDettman et al.[78]2007
Sepsis cynipsea35Martin & Hosken[79]2003
D. melanogasterWigby & Chapman[80]2006
D. pseudoobscuraSexual conflict48–52 (4; 4; 4)Bacigalupe et al.[81]2007
D. serrataRundle et al.[82]2005
Drosophila serrata & D. birchiiMate recognition9 (3; 3)ReinforcementNaturalPre-zygoticHiggie et al.[83]2000
Enterobacteria phage λEscherichia coli receptor exploitation35 cycles (6)Vicariant, sympatricPre-zygoticMeyer et al.[84]2016
Tetranychus urticaeResistance to host plant toxinOvermeer[85]1966
T. urticaeResistance to host plant toxinFry[86]1999
Helianthus annus × H. petiolaris and H. anomalusHybridRieseburg et al.[87]1996
S. cerevisiaeGreig et al.[88]2002
D. melanogasterLife historyGhosh & Joshi[89]2012
Drosophila subobscuraMate behaviorBárbaro et al.[90]2015
Digital organisms~42,000; ~850 (20)EcologicalPost-zygoticAnderson & Harmon[91]2014
Schizosaccharomyces pombeComplete reproductive isolationSeike et al.[92]2015
D. pseudoobscuraCourtship song130Debelle et al.[93]2014
Callosobruchus maculatus40 (16)Debelle et al.[94]2010

See also


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