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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the different types of variation in a population
  • Explain why only heritable variation can be acted upon by natural selection
  • Describe genetic drift and the bottleneck effect
  • Explain how each evolutionary force can influence the allele frequencies of a population

Individuals of a population often display different phenotypes, or express different alleles of a particular gene, referred to as polymorphisms. Populations with two or more variations of particular characteristics are called polymorphic. The distribution of phenotypes among individuals, known as the population variation    , is influenced by a number of factors, including the population’s genetic structure and the environment ( [link] ). Understanding the sources of a phenotypic variation in a population is important for determining how a population will evolve in response to different evolutionary pressures.

 This photo shows four kittens in a basket: two are gray, black, orange, and white, the third cat is orange and white, and the fourth cat is black.
The distribution of phenotypes in this litter of kittens illustrates population variation. (credit: Pieter Lanser)

Genetic variance

Natural selection and some of the other evolutionary forces can only act on heritable traits, namely an organism’s genetic code. Because alleles are passed from parent to offspring, those that confer beneficial traits or behaviors may be selected for, while deleterious alleles may be selected against. Acquired traits, for the most part, are not heritable. For example, if an athlete works out in the gym every day, building up muscle strength, the athlete’s offspring will not necessarily grow up to be a body builder. If there is a genetic basis for the ability to run fast, on the other hand, this may be passed to a child.

Before Darwinian evolution became the prevailing theory of the field, French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck theorized that acquired traits could, in fact, be inherited; while this hypothesis has largely been unsupported, scientists have recently begun to realize that Lamarck was not completely wrong. Visit this site to learn more.

Heritability is the fraction of phenotype variation that can be attributed to genetic differences, or genetic variance, among individuals in a population. The greater the hereditability of a population’s phenotypic variation, the more susceptible it is to the evolutionary forces that act on heritable variation.

The diversity of alleles and genotypes within a population is called genetic variance    . When scientists are involved in the breeding of a species, such as with animals in zoos and nature preserves, they try to increase a population’s genetic variance to preserve as much of the phenotypic diversity as they can. This also helps reduce the risks associated with inbreeding    , the mating of closely related individuals, which can have the undesirable effect of bringing together deleterious recessive mutations that can cause abnormalities and susceptibility to disease. For example, a disease that is caused by a rare, recessive allele might exist in a population, but it will only manifest itself when an individual carries two copies of the allele. Because the allele is rare in a normal, healthy population with unrestricted habitat, the chance that two carriers will mate is low, and even then, only 25 percent of their offspring will inherit the disease allele from both parents. While it is likely to happen at some point, it will not happen frequently enough for natural selection to be able to swiftly eliminate the allele from the population, and as a result, the allele will be maintained at low levels in the gene pool. However, if a family of carriers begins to interbreed with each other, this will dramatically increase the likelihood of two carriers mating and eventually producing diseased offspring, a phenomenon known as inbreeding depression    .

Questions & Answers

what is abiotic and biotic factors?
Hira Reply
which of the following shows the correct sequence of the cell cycle
Kameishia Reply
who is name virus
Shivam Reply
centromere consist of
Shivam
meeting point of two chromatids
Cffrrcvccgg
Explain the function of nematocysts in cnidarians?
Israel Reply
The nemotocyst is used by Cnidarians (hydra, jellyfish, sea anemones) to sting their prey and any threatening enemy.
Lee
photosynthesis in plants is an example of what ? (a) excretion (b) irritability (c) nutrition (d) reproduction
Lee Reply
If a Hox 13 gene in a mouse was replaced with a Hox 1 gene, how might this alter animal development?
Israel Reply
Which of the following organisms is most likely to be a diploblast?
Israel
what are reactions of photosynthesis?
Maria Reply
what are the probabilities of blood genotypes for the offspring from a cross between a mother lAlA blood and a father with lBi blood?
dayana Reply
what is matter
Emmanuel Reply
matter is anything that has mass and can occupied space
Alice
weight
Alice
example of matter
Oyekemi
You serves as an example of matter Because matter is anything that has mass and occupy space e.g man and every other things that exist on earth.. So think of every other things around you ...
Biola
and you too
Oyekemi
We generally
Biola
What is ecological management
Oyekemi
how the kidney functions as osmoregulatory organ
Sam Reply
That true
Banda
what is the major connection for sugars in glycolysis?
Ibrahim Reply
Simple term of science
Palesa Reply
what does it mean
gopal
it's means what do u know about biology?
Phathu
what is immunisation
Melysa
the action of making a person immune to infections ,for immunisation
Kalia
what is the biology? what do you know about biology
Phathu Reply
biology is the study of living organisms, divided into many specialized fields that cover their morphology, physiology, anatomy, behavior, origin, and distribution.
Julia
The study of all aspects of life. The study of all living organisms (such as animal cells and plant cells) in greater detail (their structure and how they function). It's a very broad science.
juanita
what is prokaryotic
Bhaskar Reply
what is pathogens
Bhaskar
pathogens are a bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease.
Lee
transistion metals....
Wasik Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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