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Genetics. 1976 Sep;84(1):145-57.

Genetic variation in a heterogeneous environment. II. Temporal heterogeneity and directional selection.


The maintenance of genetic variation is investigated in a finite population where selection at an autosomal locus with two alleles varies temporally between two environments and the heterozygote has an intermediate fitness value. When there is additive gene action and equal selection in both environments, the autocorrelation between subsequent environments must be negative for more maintenance of genetic variation than for neutrality. The maximum maintenance occurs when there is equal selection in the two environments and the autocorrelation approaches -1.0 (for a stochastic model), or when there is short repeating cycle such as one related to seasons. Also comparison of the effects of stochastic variation in selection in finite ans infinite populations is made by using Monte Carlo simulation. One situation was found where temporal environmental variation maintains genetic variation very effectively even in a small population and that is when there is evolution of dominance, i.e., the heterozygote is closer in fitness to the favored homozygote than the other homozygote. An important conclusion is that in a finite population genetic tracing of environmental change, particularly when there is a positive autocorrelation between environments or a long environmental cycle, leads to an increased loss of genetic variation making such a response undesirable in the long term, a result different from that in infinite populations.

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