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Population size and rate of evolution

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Summary

It is suggested that in evolution there is much substitution of nearly neutral mutations, for which the selection intensity varies from time to time or from region to region. Since the variance among the selection coefficients of new mutants decreases when the environment becomes uniform, the probability of a mutant being advantageous to the species as a whole increases in more uniform environment (Fig. 1).

Therefore the rate of gene substitution increases in smaller populations, as smaller populations are likely to be distributed over less varied environments.

The adequacy of the model was discussed in relation with the following facts or plausible postulates. 1. A large number of amino acid substitutions during a period corresponding to the formation of new species. 2. Rapid evolution at the phenotypic level of populations having a small size. 3. Many extinctions and expansions of the species in the past.

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Contribution No. 871 from the National Institute of Genetics, Mishima, Shizuokaken 411 Japan.

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Ohta, T. Population size and rate of evolution. J Mol Evol 1, 305–314 (1972). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01653959

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Key words

  • Evolutionary Rate
  • Environmental Diversity
  • Nearly Neutral Mutations
  • Population Size