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Sympatric Speciation: Example & Definition

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  • 0:00 What is Sympatric Speciation?
  • 0:45 Sympatric Speciation Process
  • 1:40 Sympatric Speciation Examples
  • 2:30 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

How do species evolve from a common ancestor, even if they live in the same location? Sympatric speciation is an evolutionary process that drives this type of division between species that occupy the same habitat.

What Is Sympatric Speciation?

Imagine that your family has lived in one house for many years. In fact, it's the only house your family has ever lived in. Now, imagine that your sister moves out of that house and into a house in a nearby neighborhood. She begins her own family there and, through the years, her family continues to grow and live in this new house.

When your family separated, you became different groups of people from the same common ancestor. Eventually, you might even evolve enough to feel that there are more differences between you than similarities. When this happens in nature, it's called sympatric speciation. This process allows new species to evolve from a common ancestor, while the new and old species are still living in the same geographic region.

Sympatric Speciation Process

You might be wondering how one species can become two separate species, even though they still live in the same area. This can happen in a variety of ways, but let's look at a hypothetical example to understand the process better.

We'll start with a group of flies that are all the same species. There are two sources of food for them to choose from: red apples and green apples. At first, all of the flies feed on red apples, but at some point, some of the flies begin to prefer green apples.

Sympatric speciation occurs if interactions are so limited between these groups that mating no longer occurs between them. Each new population of flies will have genetic variation in its gene pool, which is the collective genetic information for the group. As they continue to mate with other members of their new group, these variations will become more prevalent in the population. Over a long enough period of time, an entirely new species might develop.

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