The mechanisms of reproductive isolation are a collection of evolutionary mechanisms, behaviors and physiological processes critical for speciation. They prevent members of different species from producing offspring, or ensure that any offspring are sterile. These barriers maintain the integrity of a species by reducing gene flow between related species.
The mechanisms of reproductive isolation have been classified in a number of ways. Zoologist Ernst Mayr classified the mechanisms of reproductive isolation in two broad categories: pre-zygotic for those that act before fertilization (or before mating in the case of animals) and post-zygotic for those that act after it. The mechanisms are genetically controlled and can appear in species whose geographic distributions overlap (sympatric speciation) or are separate (allopatric speciation).
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