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Perspective: The Theories of Fisher and Wright in the Context of Metapopulations: When Nature Does Many Small Experiments

Michael J. Wade and Charles J. Goodnight
Evolution
Vol. 52, No. 6 (Dec., 1998), pp. 1537-1553
DOI: 10.2307/2411328
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2411328
Page Count: 17
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Perspective: The Theories of Fisher and Wright in the Context of Metapopulations: When Nature Does Many Small Experiments
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Abstract

We critically review the two major theories of adaptive evolution developed early in this century, Wright's shifting balance theory and Fisher's large population size theory, in light of novel findings from field observations, laboratory experiments, and theoretical research conducted over the past 15 years. Ecological studies of metapopulations have established that the processes of local extinction and colonization of demes are relatively common in natural populations of many species and theoretical population genetic models have shown that these ecological processes have genetic consequences within and among local demes. Within demes, random genetic drift converts nonadditive genetic variance into additive genetic variance, increasing, rather than limiting, the potential for adaptation to local environments. For this reason, the genetic differences that arise by drift among demes, can be augmented by local selection. The resulting adaptive differences in gene combinations potentially contribute to the genetic origin of new species. These and other recent findings were not discussed by either Wright or Fisher. For example, although Wright emphasized epistatic genetic variance, he did not discuss the conversion process. Similarly, Fisher did not discuss how the average additive effect of a gene varies among demes across a metapopulation whenever there is epistasis. We discuss the implications of such recent findings for the Wright-Fisher controversy and identify some critical open questions that require additional empirical and theoretical study.

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