By: Loren H. Reiseberg & John H. Willis
Like the formation of animal species, plant speciation is characterized by the evolution of barriers to genetic exchange between previously interbreeding populations. Prezygotic barriers, which impede mating or fertilization between species, typically contribute more to total reproductive isolation in plants than do postzygotic barriers, in which hybrid offspring are selected against. Adaptive divergence in response to ecological factors such as pollinators and habitat commonly drives the evolution of prezygotic barriers, but the evolutionary forces responsible for the development of intrinsic postzygotic barriers are virtually unknown and frequently result in polymorphism of incompatibility factors within species. Polyploid speciation, in which the entire genome is duplicated, is particularly frequent in plants, perhaps because polyploid plants often exhibit ecological differentiation, local dispersal, high fecundity, perennial life history, and self-fertilization or asexual reproduction. Finally, species richness in plants is co-related with many biological and geohistorical factors, most of which increase ecological opportunities.