Evolution of Genome Content: Population Dynamics of Transposable Elements in Flies and Humans

  • Josefa GonzálezEmail author
  • Dmitri A. Petrov
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 855)


Recent research is starting to shed light on the factors that influence the population and evolutionary dynamics of transposable elements (TEs) and TE life cycles. Genomes differ sharply in the number of TE copies, in the level of TE activity, in the diversity of TE families and types, and in the proportion of old and young TEs. In this chapter, we focus on two well-studied genomes with strikingly different architectures, humans and Drosophila, which represent two extremes in terms of TE diversity and population dynamics. We argue that some of the answers might lie in (1) the larger population size and consequently more effective selection against new TE insertions due to ectopic recombination in flies compared to humans; and (2) in the faster rate of DNA loss in flies compared to humans leading to much faster removal of fixed TE copies from the fly genome.

Key words

Transposable elements Population dynamics Population size Ectopic recombination Drosophila Humans Genetic drift Genetic draft Transposition rate Deletion rate 



We thank Anna-Sophie Fiston-Lavier and all members of the Petrov lab for helpful discussions, Roberto Torres for figure design (, and the three anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by a Ramon y Cajal grant from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN: RYC-2010-07306) to J.G. and by a grant from the NIH (GM 089926) to D.A.P.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF)BarcelonaSpain

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