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Evolution. 2013 Jun;67(6):1622-34. doi: 10.1111/evo.12023. Epub 2013 Jan 4.

A demographic transition altered the strength of selection for fitness and age-specific survival and fertility in a 19th century American population.

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Biology Department, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA.


Modernization has increased longevity and decreased fertility in many human populations, but it is not well understood how or to what extent these demographic transitions have altered patterns of natural selection. I integrate individual-based multivariate phenotypic selection approaches with evolutionary demographic methods to demonstrate how a demographic transition in 19th century female populations of Utah altered relationships between fitness and age-specific survival and fertility. Coincident with this demographic transition, natural selection for fitness, as measured by the opportunity for selection, increased by 13% to 20% over 65 years. Proportional contributions of age-specific survival to total selection (the complement to age-specific fertility) diminished from approximately one third to one seventh following a marked increase in infant survival. Despite dramatic reductions in age-specific fertility variance at all ages, the absolute magnitude of selection for fitness explained by age-specific fertility increased by approximately 45%. I show that increases in the adaptive potential of fertility traits followed directly from decreased population growth rates. These results suggest that this demographic transition has increased the adaptive potential of the Utah population, intensified selection for reproductive traits, and de-emphasized selection for survival-related traits.

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