Lynch [1989, in "Speciation and Its Consequences" (D. Otte and J. A. Endler, Eds.), pp. 527–553, Sinauer, Sunderland, MA, proposed a methodology for assessing the frequency of occurrence of various modes of initiating species formation, using a combination of phylogenetic relationships and relative size of geographic ranges for sister species and sister groups. Historical biogeography provides an alternative criterion for assessing modes of species formation. Species whose distributions conform to a general (replicated in multiple clades) pattern of area relationships are deemed to be the result of vicariance (including microvicariance) regardless of the details of current geographic range. Species exhibiting unique biogeographic distributions are the result of peripheral isolates speciation and postspeciation dispersal. Lineage duplications indicate sympatric speciation. An empirical assessment of this alternative approach was performed using the most recent phylogenetic trees and geographical distribution data on the Mesoamerican poeciliid fish comprising the genera Xiphophorus and Heterandria. The single area cladogram produced by secondary Brooks Parsimony Analysis indicates 3 vicariant events (accounting for seven extant species and the common ancestor of the northern swordtails, which are not further analyzed) and at least 13 episodes of peripheral isolates speciation. Two of the 10 areas considered in previous analyses are vicariant areas of endemism, 1 is historically unique due to a single episode of peripheral isolates speciation, and the remaining 7 have reticulated histories of speciation. The results corroborate inferences of speciation modes made by Lynch for the same data.
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