Chromosomal inversion polymorphisms and adaptation

Trends Ecol Evol. 2004 Sep;19(9):482-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2004.06.013.


Chromosomal inversion polymorphisms continue to be identified from an increasing number of populations of insects, plants, bacteria and humans. In the fruit fly Drosophila, chromosomal polymorphisms were used in classic studies of natural selection. Recent molecular genetic studies suggest that inversion polymorphisms are dynamical systems. These studies also indicate patterns of disequilibrium and variation that are consistent with co-adapted gene complexes. Although these complexes have yet to be identified, recent studies have identified traits, such as body size, that are linked to inversion polymorphisms. Selection acting on these polymorphisms is strong because latitudinal clines in inversion frequency become re-established rapidly after a new continent is colonized. A combined molecular and phenotypic approach is helping to identify the role of inversion polymorphisms in adaptive divergence, but the genes responsible for associations between traits and inversion polymorphisms remain to be identified.