Although allopatric divergence is a well-accepted mechanism of speciation for eukaryotic macro-organisms, the importance of geographical barriers to divergence in microbial populations is a subject of great debate. Do geographically separated populations of micro-organisms diverge independently, or does their structure fit the often quoted Bass-Becking description ‘everything is everywhere; the environment selects’? Aided by high-resolution genetic and genomic tools, the search for ‘microbial marsupials’ has revealed that in fact both are true; some species of micro-organisms demonstrate allopatric divergence, while others do not. This discovery opens the door for comparative analyses, where questions about the differences in evolutionary and ecological mechanisms that drive divergence and speciation in different microbial species can begin to be explored. Investigating these differences in evolutionary mechanisms will greatly enhance interest in, and understanding of, the dynamic processes that create and maintain the vast diversity of the microbial world.
One contribution of 15 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘Species and speciation in micro-organisms’.
- © 2006 The Royal Society