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Am Nat. 2015 Oct;186 Suppl 1:S74-89. doi: 10.1086/682405. Epub 2015 Aug 25.

Local Adaptation by Alleles of Small Effect.

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Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, 2424 Main Mall, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada; and Department of Botany, 6270 University Boulevard, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada.


Population genetic models predict that alleles with small selection coefficients may be swamped by migration and will not contribute to local adaptation. But if most alleles contributing to standing variation are of small effect, how does local adaptation proceed? Here I review predictions of population and quantitative genetic models and use individual-based simulations to illustrate how the architecture of local adaptation depends on the genetic redundancy of the trait, the maintenance of standing genetic variation (V(G)), and the susceptibility of alleles to swamping. Even when population genetic models predict swamping for individual alleles, considerable local adaptation can evolve at the phenotypic level if there is sufficient V(G). However, in such cases the underlying architecture of divergence is transient: F(ST) is low across all loci, and no locus makes an important contribution for very long. Because this kind of local adaptation is mainly due to transient frequency changes and allelic covariances, these architectures will be difficult--if not impossible--to detect using current approaches to studying the genomic basis of adaptation. Even when alleles are large and resistant to swamping, architectures can be highly transient if genetic redundancy and mutation rates are high. These results suggest that drift can play a critical role in shaping the architecture of local adaptation, both through eroding V(G) and affecting the rate of turnover of polymorphisms with redundant phenotypic effects.

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