Monday, October 24, 2011

A golden age for evolutionary genetics? Genomic studies of adaptation in natural populations

This article addresses the 20th century debate between the gradualist, incremental and the discontinuous, jerky theories of evolution. With current genome-sequencing technologies, we are able to investigate the patterns of mutation that characterize adaptive change. While there is significant evidence that single loci affect adaptive phenotypes in the wild, researchers still want to answer the question of gradual or jerky evolution. By means of QTL (quantitative trait loci) mapping and population genomics studies, epigeneticists can detect genetic substitutions that over time contribute to adaptive change, a phenomenon termed 'adaptive walk'. Because both quantitative genetic and population genomic studies have their drawbacks, a combination of the two would be ideal. In conclusion, researchers found that, despite Darwin's theories, single mutations can significantly affect phenotype.

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