Extensive standing genetic variation from a small number of founders enables rapid adaptation in Daphnia

Nat Commun. 2021 Jul 14;12(1):4306. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-24581-z.


We lack a thorough understanding of the origin and maintenance of standing genetic variation that enables rapid evolutionary responses of natural populations. Whole genome sequencing of a resurrected Daphnia population shows that standing genetic variation in over 500 genes follows an evolutionary trajectory that parallels the pronounced and rapid adaptive evolution of multiple traits in response to predator-driven natural selection and its subsequent relaxation. Genetic variation carried by only five founding individuals from the regional genotype pool is shown to suffice at enabling the observed evolution. Our results provide insight on how natural populations can acquire the genomic variation, through colonization by a few regional genotypes, that fuels rapid evolution in response to strong selection pressures. While these evolutionary responses in our study population involved hundreds of genes, we observed no evidence of genetic erosion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Daphnia / genetics
  • Daphnia / physiology*
  • Founder Effect*
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Phenotype
  • Selection, Genetic