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Stabilizing Selection and the Comparative Analysis of Adaptation

Thomas F. Hansen
Evolution
Vol. 51, No. 5 (Oct., 1997), pp. 1341-1351
DOI: 10.2307/2411186
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2411186
Page Count: 11
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Stabilizing Selection and the Comparative Analysis of Adaptation
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Abstract

Comparative studies tend to differ from optimality and functionality studies in how they treat adaptation. While the comparative approach focuses on the origin and change of traits, optimality studies assume that adaptations are maintained at an optimum by stabilizing selection. This paper presents a model of adaptive evolution on a macroevolutionary time scale that includes the maintenance of traits at adaptive optima by stabilizing selection as the dominant evolutionary force. Interspecific variation is treated as variation in the position of adaptive optima. The model illustrates how phylogenetic constraints not only lead to correlations between phylogenetically related species, but also to imperfect adaptations. From this model, a statistical comparative method is derived that can be used to estimate the effect of a selective factor on adaptive optima in a way that would be consistent with an optimality study of adaptation to this factor. The method is illustrated with an analysis of dental evolution in fossil horses. The use of comparative methods to study evolutionary trends is also discussed.

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