Understanding the mechanisms of evolution requires information on the rate of appearance of new mutations and their effects at the molecular and phenotypic levels. Although procuring such data has been technically challenging, high-throughput genome sequencing is rapidly expanding knowledge in this area. With information on spontaneous mutations now available in a variety of organisms, general patterns have emerged for the scaling of mutation rate with genome size and for the likely mechanisms that drive this pattern. Support is presented for the hypothesis that natural selection pushes mutation rates down to a lower limit set by the power of random genetic drift rather than by intrinsic physiological limitations, and that this has resulted in reduced levels of replication, transcription, and translation fidelity in eukaryotes relative to prokaryotes.
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