Monday, September 24, 2012

Interacting Mutations Promote Diversity

Genetic diversity is maintained through the balance of mutation, genetic drift, and selection. This evolutionary biology study from Mac Planck Institute explores the competition between mutations within a population and how it promotes diversity. To do so, the study analyzes the fitness value of a gene and uses evolutionary game theory principles to come to the conclusion that the fitness of a mutation depends on its frequency. Fitness is a measure of success for a given gene, i.e. the number of offspring produced in the next generation that survive and reproduce. Basic evolutionary theory states that a single allele must compete with other alleles in a given gene pool and either become established or die out. The emergence of a mutation within a gene pool, in particular, creates diversity because it increases the number of phenotype possibilities for offspring (see above figure, a). This same reasoning can also be applied to competition between different mutations. Therefore, evolutionary competition between mutations has produced "stable polymorphisms." This study is significant in that it helps us develop a greater understanding of population genetics and the inheritance of genes.

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