The Role of Mutation Bias in Adaptive Evolution

Trends Ecol Evol. 2019 May;34(5):422-434. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2019.01.015.


Mutational input is the ultimate source of genetic variation, but mutations are not thought to affect the direction of adaptive evolution. Recently, critics of standard evolutionary theory have questioned the random and non-directional nature of mutations, claiming that the mutational process can be adaptive in its own right. We discuss here mutation bias in adaptive evolution. We find little support for mutation bias as an independent force in adaptive evolution, although it can interact with selection under conditions of small population size and when standing genetic variation is limited, entirely consistent with standard evolutionary theory. We further emphasize that natural selection can shape the phenotypic effects of mutations, giving the false impression that directed mutations are driving adaptive evolution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Population Density
  • Selection, Genetic*