Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution

The neutral theory of molecular evolution states that the vast majority of evolutionary changes at the molecular level are caused by random drift of selectively neutral mutants (not affecting fitness). The theory was introduced by Motoo Kimura in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Neutral theory is compatible with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection: adaptive changes are acknowledged as present and important, but hypothesized to be a small minority of all the changes seen fixed in DNA sequences. Since then, this hypothesis has been tested using the McDonald-Kreitman test, and has not been supported in all species. Even in those species in which adaptive changes are rare, background selection at linked sites may violate neutral theory's assumptions regarding genetic drift.

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Neutral Theory Of Molecular Evolution - The "neutralist–selectionist" Debate - Implications For Evolvability in Asexual Populations
... model, "innovation occurs via cycles of exploration of nearly neutral spaces," which he refers to as a neutralist regime ... During a neutralist regime, neutral mutations accumulate, and so genetic diversity increases ... Wagner writes "Populations evolving on large neutral networks can access greater amounts of variation." He explains the limitations of his work ...

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