Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 454–465

Genetic distance and species formation in evolving populations

  • Paul G. Higgs
  • Bernard Derrida

DOI: 10.1007/BF00171824

Cite this article as:
Higgs, P.G. & Derrida, B. J Mol Evol (1992) 35: 454. doi:10.1007/BF00171824


We compare the behavior of the genetic distance between individuals in evolving populations for three stochastic models.

In the first model reproduction is asexual and the distribution of genetic distances reflects the genealogical tree of the population. This distribution fluctuates greatly in time, even for very large populations.

In the second model reproduction is sexual with random mating allowed between any pair of individuals. In this case, the population becomes homogeneous and the genetic distance between pairs of individuals has small fluctuations which vanish in the limit of an infinitely large population.

In the third model reproduction is still sexual but instead of random mating, mating only occurs between individuals which are genetically similar to each other. In that case, the population splits spontaneously into species which are in reproductive isolation from one another and one observes a steady state with a continual appearance and extinction of species in the population. We discuss this model in relation to the biological theory of speciation and isolating mechanisms.

We also point out similarities between these three models of evolving populations and the theory of disordered systems in physics.

Key words

Genetic distanceNeutral theorySpeciation

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul G. Higgs
    • 1
  • Bernard Derrida
    • 1
  1. 1.Service de Physique ThéoriqueCentre d'Etudes de SaclayGif-sur-Yvette CedexFrance