Abstract: A large number of mathematical models have been developed that show how natural and sexual selection can cause prezygotic isolation to evolve. This article attempts to unify this literature by identifying five major elements that determine the outcome of speciation caused by selection: a form of disruptive selection, a form of isolating mechanism (assortment or a mating preference), a way to transmit the force of disruptive selection to the isolating mechanism (direct selection or indirect selection), a genetic basis for increased isolation (a one‐ or two‐allele mechanism), and an initial condition (high or low initial divergence). We show that the geographical context of speciation (allopatry vs. sympatry) can be viewed as a form of assortative mating. These five elements appear to operate largely independently of each other and can be used to make generalizations about when speciation is most likely to happen. This provides a framework for interpreting results from laboratory experiments, which are found to agree generally with theoretical predictions about conditions that are favorable to the evolution of prezygotic isolation.
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