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Journal Article

Perspective: The Pace of Modern Life: Measuring Rates of Contemporary Microevolution

Andrew P. Hendry and Michael T. Kinnison
Evolution
Vol. 53, No. 6 (Dec., 1999), pp. 1637-1653
DOI: 10.2307/2640428
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2640428
Page Count: 17
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Perspective: The Pace of Modern Life: Measuring Rates of Contemporary Microevolution
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Abstract

We evaluate methods for measuring and specifying rates of microevolution in the wild, with particular regard to studies of contemporary, often deemed "rapid," evolution. A considerable amount of ambiguity and inconsistency persists within the field, and we provide a number of suggestions that should improve study design, inference, and clarity of presentation. (1) Some studies measure change over time within a population (allochronic) and others measure the difference between two populations that had a common ancestor in the past (synchronic). Allochronic studies can be used to estimate rates of "evolution," whereas synchronic studies more appropriately estimate rates of "divergence." Rates of divergence may range from a small fraction to many times the actual evolutionary rates in the component populations. (2) Some studies measure change using individuals captured from the wild, whereas others measure differences after rearing in a common environment. The first type of study can be used to specify "phenotypic" rates and the later "genetic" rates. (3) The most commonly used evolutionary rate metric, the darwin, has a number of theoretical shortcomings. Studies of microevolution would benefit from specifying rates in standard deviations per generation, the haldane. (4) Evolutionary rates are typically specified without an indication of their precision. Readily available methods for specifying confidence intervals and statistical significance (regression, bootstrapping, randomization) should be implemented. (5) Microevolutionists should strive to accumulate time series, which can reveal temporal shifts in the rate of evolution and can be used to identify evolutionary patterns. (6) Evolutionary rates provide a convenient way to compare the tempo of evolution across studies, traits, taxa, and time scales, but such comparisons are subject to varying degrees of confidence. Comparisons across different time scales are particularly tenuous. (7) A number of multivariate rate measures exist, but considerable theoretical development is required before their utility can be determined. We encourage the continued investigation of evolutionary rates because the information they provide is relevant to a wide range of theoretical and practical issues.

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