Evolutionary Fitness in Variable Environments
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Evolutionary Fitness in Variable Environments

  • Author(s): Melbinger, Anna
  • Vergassola, Massimo
  • et al.

One essential ingredient of evolutionary theory is the concept of fitness as a measure for a species' success in its living conditions. Here, we quantify the effect of environmental fluctuations onto fitness by analytical calculations on a general evolutionary model and by studying corresponding individual-based microscopic models. We demonstrate that not only larger growth rates and viabilities, but also reduced sensitivity to environmental variability substantially increases the fitness. Even for neutral evolution, variability in the growth rates plays the crucial role of strongly reducing the expected fixation times. Thereby, environmental fluctuations constitute a mechanism to account for the effective population sizes inferred from genetic data that often are much smaller than the census population size.

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