Evolutionary Biology: Exobiology and Evolutionary Mechanisms

pp 37-46


Effects of Epistasis and Pleiotropy on Fitness Landscapes

  • Bjørn ØstmanAffiliated withMicrobiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University Email author 

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The factors that influence genetic architecture shape the structure of the fitness landscape, and therefore play a large role in the evolutionary dynamics. Here the NK model is used to investigate how epistasis and pleiotropy—key components of genetic architecture—affect the structure of the fitness landscape, and how they affect the ability of evolving populations to adapt despite the difficulty of crossing valleys present in rugged landscapes. Populations are seen to make use of epistatic interactions and pleiotropy to attain higher fitness, and are not inhibited by the fact that valleys have to be crossed to reach peaks of higher fitness.


Adaptation Fitness landscape Epistasis Pleiotropy NK model Evolutionary dynamics Genetic architecture Population genetics