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Natural selection vs. random drift: evidence from temporal variation in allele frequencies in nature.


We have obtained monthly samples of two species, Drosophila pseudoobscura and Drosophila persimilis, in a natural population from Napa County, California. In each species, about 300 genes have been assayed by electrophoresis for each of seven enzyme loci in each monthly sample from March 1972 to June 1975. Using statistical methods developed for the purpose, we have examined whether the allele frequencies at different loci vary in a correlated fashion. The methods used do not detect natural selection when it is deterministic (e.g., overdominance or directional selection), but only when alleles at different loci vary simultaneously in response to the same environmental variations. Moreover, only relatively large fitness differences (of the order of 15%) are detectable. We have found strong evidence of correlated allele frequency variation in 13-20% of the cases examined. We interpret this as evidence that natural selection plays a major role in the evolution of protein polymorphisms in nature.

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