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Nature. 1983 Nov 24-30;306(5941):368-70.

Relative fitness can decrease in evolving asexual populations of S. cerevisiae.

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Division of Biological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


It is generally accepted from the darwinian theory of evolution that a progressive increase in population adaptation will occur in populations containing genetic variation in fitness, until a stable equilibrium is reached and/or the additive genetic variation is exhausted. However, the theoretical literature of population genetics documents exceptions where mean population fitness may decrease in response to evolutionary changes in gene frequency, due to varying selective coefficients, sexual selection or to epistatic interactions between loci. Until now, no examples of such exceptions have been documented from fitness estimates in either natural or experimental populations. We present here direct evidence that, as a result of epistatic interactions between adaptive mutations, mean population fitness can decrease in asexual evolving populations of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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