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Species Concepts and Reproductive Isolating Barriers

Author(s): Tadzia GrandPré, PhD, Nancy Moreno, PhD, and Lisa Marie Meffert, PhD

Ecological Isolation

Ecological isolation occurs when different species live in the same geographic area but occupy different habitats within that area. These barriers are byproducts of different adaptations to local environments. Under these circumstances, individuals of different species do not hybridize simply because they rarely encounter one another.

For example, until recently, the natural ranges of lions and tigers in India overlapped. However, these two species have different habitats: lions live and breed in the open grasslands while tigers generally stay in the forest. Thus, even though lions and tigers technically can mate and produce viable offspring, this rarely, if ever occurs in natural settings.

Ecological isolation is a premating and prezygotic isolating barrier.