The "New Synthesis"

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Jul 26;119(30):e2122147119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2122147119. Epub 2022 Jul 18.


When Mendel's work was rediscovered in 1900, and extended to establish classical genetics, it was initially seen in opposition to Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection on continuous variation, as represented by the biometric research program that was the foundation of quantitative genetics. As Fisher, Haldane, and Wright established a century ago, Mendelian inheritance is exactly what is needed for natural selection to work efficiently. Yet, the synthesis remains unfinished. We do not understand why sexual reproduction and a fair meiosis predominate in eukaryotes, or how far these are responsible for their diversity and complexity. Moreover, although quantitative geneticists have long known that adaptive variation is highly polygenic, and that this is essential for efficient selection, this is only now becoming appreciated by molecular biologists-and we still do not have a good framework for understanding polygenic variation or diffuse function.

Keywords: infinitesimal model; polygenic adaptation; quantitative genetics.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Genetics* / history
  • Heredity*
  • History, 19th Century
  • Selection, Genetic*