The theory of speciation via the founder principle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The founder principle has been used to explain many instances of rapid speciation. Advances from theoretical population genetics are incorporated into MAYR's original founder-effect genetic-revolution model to yield a newer model called the genetic transilience. The basic theoretical edifice lies upon the fact that founder event can sometimes lead to an accumulation of inbreeding and an induction of gametic disequilibrium. This, in turn, causes alleles to be selected more for their homozygous fitness effects and for their effects on a more stable genetic background. Selection occurring in multi-locus systems controlling integrated developmental, physiological, behavioral, etc., traits is particularly sensitive to these founder effects. If sufficient genetic variability exists in the founder population, such multilocus genetic systems can respond to drift and the altered selective forces by undergoing a rapid shift to a new adaptive peak known as the genetic transilience. A genetic transilience is, therefore, most likely to occur when the founder event causes a rapid accumulation of inbreeding without a severe reduction in genetic variability. The implications of this model are then examined for three aspects of the founder-effect genetic-transilience model: the attributes of the ancestral population, the nature of the sampling process used to generate the founders and the attributes of the founder population. The model is used to explain several features of the evolution of the Hawaiian Drosophila, and experimental designs are outlined to test the major predictions of the theroy. Hence, this theory of speciation can be tested in the laboratory, using systems and techniques that already exist - a rare attribute of most models of speciation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1011-1038
Number of pages28
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1980
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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