The evolution of genetic diversity in changing environments

The evolution of genetic diversity in changing environments

Oana Carja, Uri Liberman, Marcus W. Feldman

The production and maintenance of genetic and phenotypic diversity under temporally fluctuating selection and the signatures of environmental and selective volatility in the patterns of genetic and phenotypic variation have been important areas of focus in population genetics. On one hand, stretches of constant selection pull the genetic makeup of populations towards local fitness optima. On the other, in order to cope with changes in the selection regime, populations may evolve mechanisms that create a diversity of genotypes. By tuning the rates at which variability is produced, such as the rates of recombination, mutation or migration, populations may increase their long-term adaptability. Here we use theoretical models to gain insight into how the rates of these three evolutionary forces are shaped by fluctuating selection. We compare and contrast the evolution of recombination, mutation and migration under similar patterns of environmental change and show that these three sources of phenotypic variation are surprisingly similar in their response to changing selection. We show that knowing the shape, size, variance and asymmetry of environmental runs is essential for accurate prediction of genetic evolutionary dynamics.

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