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Formation of new and distinct species, whereby a single evolutionary line splits into two or more genetically independent ones. One of the fundamental processes of evolution, speciation may occur in many ways. Investigators formerly found evidence for speciation in the fossil record by tracing sequential changes in the structure and form of organisms. Genetic studies now show that such changes do not always accompany speciation, since many apparently identical groups are in fact reproductively isolated (i.e., they can no longer produce viable offspring through interbreeding). Polyploidy (seeploidy) is a means by which the beginnings of new species are created in just two or three generations.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on speciation, visit Britannica.com.