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J Theor Biol. 2008 May 7;252(1):166-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2007.12.020. Epub 2008 Jan 15.

Adaptation to slow environmental change, with apparent anticipation of selection.

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Centre for the Study of Evolution, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QG, Sussex, UK.


We investigate a genetic model of a large population of sexual organisms in a changing environment. The organisms are subject to stabilising selection on a quantitative trait, with environmental change causing the fitness optimum to move. When the fitness optimum moves slowly, adaptation to the changing environment occurs by means of reasonably well-separated substitutions at the loci controlling the trait. In this way, the trait generally tracks the moving optimum, but in such a case, the population may exhibit periods of time where the mean trait value overshoots the moving optimal trait value, thereby exhibiting an apparent anticipation of selection. The mechanism underlying this phenomenon is determined from consideration of a simpler model that correctly captures the observed dynamical behaviour. We note that very slow rates of changes of traits are seen in the fossil record and the present work may be relevant to this topic.

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