10 Differences Between allopatric and sympatric speciation

What is Allopatric Speciation?

Allopatric speciation is a process in which a new species arises due to geographical isolation. It occurs when a single population is divided into two or more isolated populations. These isolated populations then undergo independent evolutionary changes, resulting in the formation of new species.

Examples of Allopatric Speciation

1. Continental Drift: The separation of continents, such as the split between South America and Africa, led to the formation of different species in each region.
2. Mountain Ranges: The isolation of populations on either side of a mountain range can result in allopatric speciation, as seen in the case of the Appalachian Mountains and the Great Basin.
3. Islands: Animals or plants that colonize isolated islands can often undergo allopatric speciation. The finches of the Galapagos Islands are a famous example.

Uses of Allopatric Speciation

Allopatric speciation plays a crucial role in the diversification of life on Earth. It contributes to biodiversity by creating new species with distinct characteristics. This process also allows scientists to study the mechanisms of evolution and understand how species adapt to different environments.

What is Sympatric Speciation?

Sympatric speciation is a process in which new species arise within the same geographical area without any physical barriers separating them. This type of speciation is driven by other factors, such as chromosomal changes, ecological differentiation, or genetic mutations.

Examples of Sympatric Speciation

1. Apple Maggot Flies: A population of hawthorn flies shifted its preference from hawthorn fruits to apple fruits, leading to the development of a separate apple maggot fly species.
2. Cichlid Fish: In African lakes, different species of cichlid fish evolved in the same habitat by adapting to different food sources and mating displays.
3. Plant Polyploidy: Some plant species can undergo sympatric speciation through polyploidy, where they double their set of chromosomes, leading to the formation of a new species.

Uses of Sympatric Speciation

Sympatric speciation is important in understanding the mechanisms of speciation without the presence of geographic barriers. It helps scientists understand the role of genetic and ecological factors in the diversification of species. Additionally, studying sympatric speciation provides insights into how organisms adapt to changing environments and their ecological interactions.

Differences Between Allopatric and Sympatric Speciation

Difference Area Allopatric Speciation Sympatric Speciation
Mechanism Geographical isolation No geographical isolation
Population division Populations are physically separated. Populations coexist in the same area.
Evolving factors Changes due to genetic drift and natural selection. Changes due to genetic mutations or ecological differentiation.
Gene flow Limited gene flow between isolated populations. Gene flow is possible between coexisting populations.
Adaptive radiation May lead to adaptive radiation and rapid speciation. May lead to speciation with less distinct changes.
Time scale Speciation generally takes longer due to isolation. Speciation can occur more rapidly due to shared environment.
Commonality More commonly observed in nature. Rarer compared to allopatric speciation.
Extent of genetic divergence Greater genetic divergence between isolated populations. Lesser genetic divergence between sympatric populations.
Genetic barriers Physical barriers create genetic isolation. Non-physical barriers are responsible for isolation.
Geographical distribution Different species are geographically separated. Different species can coexist in the same location.


In summary, allopatric speciation and sympatric speciation are two distinct processes that give rise to new species. The main difference lies in the presence or absence of geographic barriers. Allopatric speciation occurs through physical isolation, while sympatric speciation occurs within the same geographic area. These processes have different evolutionary implications and generate species with varying degrees of genetic divergence.

People Also Ask

Q: Can allopatric speciation occur in the absence of physical barriers?

A: No, allopatric speciation requires the presence of physical barriers that isolate populations.

Q: How does sympatric speciation occur without geographic isolation?

A: Sympatric speciation can occur through mechanisms such as genetic mutations, ecological differentiation, or polyploidy.

Q: Which process is more common – allopatric or sympatric speciation?

A: Allopatric speciation is more commonly observed in nature compared to sympatric speciation.

Q: Can allopatric and sympatric speciation occur simultaneously?

A: While it is possible for allopatric and sympatric speciation to occur simultaneously, they are distinct processes with different mechanisms.

Q: What is the role of natural selection in both types of speciation?

A: Natural selection drives the divergence of populations in both allopatric and sympatric speciation, leading to the formation of new species.

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