'Fuel of evolution' more abundant than previously thought

From the fluff article

According to the researchers, their findings have implications for predictions of species’ adaptability to environmental change. “This research has shown us that evolution cannot be discounted as a process which allows species to survive in response to rapid environmental change,” Dr. Bonnet said. “With the habitat of many species changing at an increasing rate, there is no guarantee at all that these populations will be able to keep up. But what we can say is that evolution is a much more significant driver than previously thought in the adaptability of populations to the environmental changes we are currently seeing.”

Original article, paywalled?



The rate of adaptive evolution, the contribution of selection to genetic changes that increase mean fitness, is determined by the additive genetic variance in individual relative fitness. To date, there are few robust estimates of this parameter for natural populations, and it is therefore unclear whether adaptive evolution can play a meaningful role in short-term population dynamics. We developed and applied quantitative genetic methods to long-term datasets from 19 wild bird and mammal populations and found that, while estimates vary between populations, additive genetic variance in relative fitness is often substantial and, on average, twice that of previous estimates. We show that these rates of contemporary adaptive evolution can affect population dynamics and hence that natural selection has the potential to partly mitigate effects of current environmental change.


Existing variation has always been much more important than new variation. The ratio of the former to the latter is about a million to one.


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