Fitness and its role in evolutionary genetics

Nat Rev Genet. 2009 Aug;10(8):531-9. doi: 10.1038/nrg2603.


Although the operation of natural selection requires that genotypes differ in fitness, some geneticists may find it easier to understand natural selection than fitness. Partly this reflects the fact that the word 'fitness' has been used to mean subtly different things. In this Review I distinguish among these meanings (for example, individual fitness, absolute fitness and relative fitness) and explain how evolutionary geneticists use fitness to predict changes in the genetic composition of populations through time. I also review the empirical study of fitness, emphasizing approaches that take advantage of recent genetic and genomic data, and I highlight important unresolved problems in understanding fitness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Selection, Genetic*