Scaling expectations for the time to establishment of complex adaptations

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43 Scopus citations


Although the vast majority of research in evolutionary biology is focused on adaption, a general theory for the population-genetic mechanisms by which complex adaptations are acquired remains to be developed. The issue explored here is the procurement of novel traits that specifically require multiple mutations to achieve a fitness advantage. By highlighting the roles played by the forces of mutation, recombination, and random genetic drift, and drawing from observations on the joint constraints on these factors, the ways in which rates of acquisition of specific types of adaptations scale with population size are explored. These general results provide insight into a number ofongoing controversies regardingthemolecular basis of adaptation, including the adaptive utility of recombination and the role of drift in the passage through adaptive valleys.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16577-16582
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number38
StatePublished - Sep 21 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive evolution
  • Complex traits
  • Evolutionary rate
  • Molecular evolution
  • Recombination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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