Sympatric incipient speciation of spiny mice Acomys at "Evolution Canyon," Israel

Yarin Hadid, Tomáš Pavlíček, Avigdor Beiles, Ron Ianovici, Shmuel Raz, Eviatar Nevo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Does the paucity of empirical evidence of sympatric speciation in nature reflect reality, despite theoretical support? Or is it due to inappropriate searches in nature with overly restrictive assumptions and an incorrect null hypothesis? Spiny mice, Acomys, described here at Evolution Canyon (EC) incipiently and sympatrically speciate owing to microclimatic interslope divergence. The opposite slopes at EC vary dramatically, physically and biotically, representing the dry and hot south-facing slope savannoid-African continent ["African" slope (AS)], abutting with the north-facing slope forested south-European continent ["European" slope (ES)]. African-originated spiny mice, of the Acomys cahirinus complex, colonized Israel 30,000 y ago based on fossils. Genotypically, we showed significantly higher genetic diversity of mtDNA and amplified fragment length polymorphism of Acomys on the AS compared with the ES. This is also true regionally across Israel. In complete mtDNA, 25% of the haplotypes at EC were slope-biased. Phenotypically, the opposite slope's populations also showed adaptive morphology, physiology, and behavior divergence paralleling regional populations across Israel. Preliminary tests indicate slope-specific mate choices. Colonization of Acomys at the EC first occurred on the AS and then moved to the ES. Strong slopespecific natural selection (both positive and negative) overrules low interslope gene flow. Both habitat slope selection and mate choices suggest ongoing incipient sympatric speciation. We conclude that Acomys at the EC is ecologically and genetically adaptively, incipiently, sympatrically speciating on the ES owing to adaptive microclimatic natural selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1043-1048
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - 21 Jan 2014


  • Adaptation
  • Ecological-speciation
  • Microscale
  • Rodents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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