Perspective: reverse evolution

Evolution. 2001 Apr;55(4):653-60. doi: 10.1554/0014-3820(2001)055[0653:pre];2.


For some time, the reversibility of evolution was primarily discussed in terms of comparative patterns. Only recently has this problem been studied using experimental evolution over shorter evolutionary time frames. This has raised questions of definition, experimental procedure, and the hypotheses being tested. Experimental evolution has provided evidence for multiple population genetic mechanisms in reverse evolution, including pleiotropy and mutation accumulation. It has also pointed to genetic factors that might prevent reverse evolution, such as a lack of genetic variability, epistasis, and differential genotype-by-environment interactions. The main focus of this perspective is on laboratory studies and their relevance to the genetics of reverse evolution. We discuss reverse evolution experiments with Drosophila, bacterial, and viral populations. Field studies of the reverse evolution of melanism in the peppered moth are also reviewed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteriophage phi 6 / genetics
  • Bacteriophage phi X 174 / genetics
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Male
  • Moths / genetics
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Pseudomonas fluorescens / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic