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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Dec 1975; 72(12): 5061–5065.
PMCID: PMC388875

Social structuring of mammalian populations and rate of chromosomal evolution.

Abstract

To test the hypothesis that the evolution of organisms is dependent to a large degree on gene rearrangement, we devised a way of estimating rates of evolutionary change in karyotype. This non-biochemical method is based on consideration of chromosomal variability within taxonomic groups having a fossil record. The results show that chromosomal evolution has been faster in placental mammals than in other vertebrates or molluscs. This finding is consistent with published evidence that placentals have also been evolving unusually fast in anatomy and way of life. However, the structural genes of placentals seem not to have experienced accelerated evolution. Possibly, therefore, anatomical evolution may be facilitated by gene rearrangement. To explain how placentals achieved this rate of chromosomal evolution, we consider the process by which a new gene arrangement becomes fixed and spreads. The structure and dynamics of placental populations may be especially favorable for this process. The key factor involved seems to be the type of social behavior which produces small effective population sizes and inbreeding. As Bush points out elsewhere, such social structuring of populations may promote rapid fixation of gene rearrangements and rapid speciation.

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Selected References

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