Is the population size of a species relevant to its evolution?

Evolution. 2001 Nov 11;55(11):2161-9. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2001.tb00732.x.


This paper examines aspects of genetic draft, the stochastic force induced by substitutions at one locus on the dynamics of a closely linked locus. Of particular interest is the role of population size on genetic draft. Remarkably, the rate of substitution of weakly selected advantageous mutations decreases with increasing population size, whereas that for deleterious mutations increases with population size. This dependency on population size is the opposite of that for genetic drift. Moreover, these rates are only weakly dependent on population size, again contrary to the strong dependency of drift-based dynamics. Four models of the strongly selected loci responsible for genetic draft are examined. Three of these exhibit a very weak dependency on population size, which implies that their induced effects will also be weakly dependent on population size. Together, these results suggest that population size and binomial sampling may not be relevant to a species' evolution. If this is the case, then a number of evolutionary conundrums are resolved.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Genotype
  • Mathematics
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Population Density*