, Volume 123, Issue 1-2, pp 157-170

Parallel genotypic adaptation: when evolution repeats itself

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Abstract

Until recently, parallel genotypic adaptation was considered unlikely because phenotypic differences were thought to be controlled by many genes. There is increasing evidence, however, that phenotypic variation sometimes has a simple genetic basis and that parallel adaptation at the genotypic level may be more frequent than previously believed. Here, we review evidence for parallel genotypic adaptation derived from a survey of the experimental evolution, phylogenetic, and quantitative genetic literature. The most convincing evidence of parallel genotypic adaptation comes from artificial selection experiments involving microbial populations. In some experiments, up to half of the nucleotide substitutions found in independent lineages under uniform selection are the same. Phylogenetic studies provide a means for studying parallel genotypic adaptation in non-experimental systems, but conclusive evidence may be difficult to obtain because homoplasy can arise for other reasons. Nonetheless, phylogenetic approaches have provided evidence of parallel genotypic adaptation across all taxonomic levels, not just microbes. Quantitative genetic approaches also suggest parallel genotypic evolution across both closely and distantly related taxa, but it is important to note that this approach cannot distinguish between parallel changes at homologous loci versus convergent changes at closely linked non-homologous loci. The finding that parallel genotypic adaptation appears to be frequent and occurs at all taxonomic levels has important implications for phylogenetic and evolutionary studies. With respect to phylogenetic analyses, parallel genotypic changes, if common, may result in faulty estimates of phylogenetic relationships. From an evolutionary perspective, the occurrence of parallel genotypic adaptation provides increasing support for determinism in evolution and may provide a partial explanation for how species with low levels of gene flow are held together.