Empirical fitness landscapes and the predictability of evolution

Nat Rev Genet. 2014 Jul;15(7):480-90. doi: 10.1038/nrg3744. Epub 2014 Jun 10.


The genotype-fitness map (that is, the fitness landscape) is a key determinant of evolution, yet it has mostly been used as a superficial metaphor because we know little about its structure. This is now changing, as real fitness landscapes are being analysed by constructing genotypes with all possible combinations of small sets of mutations observed in phylogenies or in evolution experiments. In turn, these first glimpses of empirical fitness landscapes inspire theoretical analyses of the predictability of evolution. Here, we review these recent empirical and theoretical developments, identify methodological issues and organizing principles, and discuss possibilities to develop more realistic fitness landscape models.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / genetics*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Aspergillus niger / drug effects
  • Aspergillus niger / genetics
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Genetic Fitness*
  • Genotype
  • Methylobacterium extorquens / drug effects
  • Methylobacterium extorquens / genetics
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Mutation
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / drug effects
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents