Changes in the heritable attributes of populations of organisms over time. Major mechanisms include drift, natural selection, mutation, and gene flow (migration).

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Hamilton's inclusive fitness approach

The underlying intuition of Hamilton's model of inclusive fitness is that we should study social behaviors from the point of view of actors -- rather than the recipients. To build his model, Hamilton ...
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Effects of selection on effective population size

Background The effective population size ($N_e$) is a central concept of evolutionary biology and is influenced by several parameters. For example: sex ratio bias affects $N_e$ $\left(N_e = ...
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Gender and age-specific mutation rate in plants

Background General concept According to Cochran and Harpending (2013), mothers transmits on average a number $x$ of new mutations to their offspring. This number $x$ is independent of the age of the ...
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Intuitive explanation for Kin- and Group- selection

It is known from theoretician in the field of kin selection that kin selection (inclusive fitness theory) and group selection are actually two sides of the same coin. In other words, these two ...
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Hill-Roberston effects and effective population size

From this article, first page, middle of the second column: Even if harmful alleles do not become fixed, they can still reduce the efficacy of selection on neighbouring loci through a process ...
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Reformulation of Hamilton's rule

Who (and in which article) was the first to reformulate Hamilton's rule using the letters $B$ and $C$?. See below comments on this reformulation. Hamilton, in his 1964's article gave a mathematical ...
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Probability of Extinction under Genetic Drift

Here is the Wright-Fisher model of genetic drift: $$\frac{(2N)!}{k!(2N-k)!}p^kq^{2N-k} \Leftrightarrow \binom{2N}{k}p^kq^{2N-k}$$ where $\binom{2N}{k}$ is the binomial coefficient. This formula ...
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Is local equilibrium a reasonable assumption for evolutionary processes?

Whenever I look at discussions of fitness landscapes (in particular, Kauffman's NK model) the questions tend to resemble: The population is at a local equilibrium, but another equilibrium of ...
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Genotype to phenotype map and the G-matrix

Suppose I have a genotype-phenotype map defined by the matrix $\mathbf{Z}$:         The scalars $G,P$ represent the number of genotypes and traits, respectively. ...
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The origin of molecular machines

DNA holds genetic information and holds the key to the evolution of living organisms. Transcription and translation mechanisms enable living cells to process information encoded in DNA. To that end, ...
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How does the body “know” how to metabolize foreign substances

As a freshman biochemistry major, I find myself befuddled by our body's ability to perform complex chemical reactions to break down foreign substances. I can see how we would evolve explicit pathways ...
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Why are recombination rates increasing in mammals?

I have recently become fascinated with an awesome topic in biology and evolution that I feel is rarely covered in biology courses. That is, rates of meiotic recombination, or the the amount that an ...
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Visualisation of phylogeography

I am working on phylogeography on one model species and I am a beginner. You can imagine one species that came on locality more than 5 mya (million years ago). It was a good environment, so the ...
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How would constantly growing nails have aided early human?

Nails grow rapidly and constantly, such that without constant artificial trimming they would reach lengths difficult to manage. How did this benefit early humans, say 200kya? Were they used like ...
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Why do women live longer than men?

According to Wikipedia and many other sources, women live substancially longer than men (over 5 years in the U.S.). Men can reproduce for much longer than women. So longer living men would have the ...
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257 views

Evolutionary reasons why you cannot tickle yourself but masturbate

There are obviously good reasons that explain why you cannot tickle yourself (see e.g. here). This got me thinking why it is possible to masturbate... Wouldn't it make more sense to not being able to ...
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If evolution is a gradual and continuous process, how can we say humans came about 200k years ago? What is so special about that point in time?

It just seems arbitrary to me to say "ok, now THIS is officially a human" when you could look at its parents and find no noticeable differences. At no point in the line of my ancestral history is ...
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Evolution of Chromosome Numbers

Some species have different numbers of chromosomes, as we all know. Throughout evolution, how was a species able to survive with an extra chromosome? How was this organism able to breed successfully ...
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What percentage of the (additive or not) genetic variance is explained by the 'n'- most important loci?

Standard models in population genetics look up at the evolution of few loci which impact fitness. The variance in fitness is determined by the genetic variance and the environmental variance (and the ...
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Why aren't we ambidextrous?

It seems so simple that if my brain can tell my right hand to do something, then it should be able to tell equally well to the left ? This seems like a pretty major evolutionary advantage. Why haven't ...
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Disproportion in cranial nerve innervation?

The cranial nerve innervation is highly disproportionate, as far as humans are concerned. I am not sure of the advantage of being innervated by cranial nerve versus being innervated by a normal ...
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Alternatives to fittest-win and Moran processes as simple mathematical models of selection

When modeling selective sweeps as a micro-building block in models of macroevolution (not to be confused with misuses of this in creationist arguments), I use the fittest-win model of selection as a ...
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Basic Modelling in Quantitative Genetics

I am pretty bad in thinking quantitative genetics models. I am trying to get some basic understanding of modelling the evolution of a quantitative trait. I am therefore asking for help to analyze a ...
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Expected time for a neutral allele to reach a frequency of $p_1$ when starting at frequency $p_0$

Kimura and Ohta (1968) show that the expected time for a neutral allele to reach fixation (given that it will reach fixation) is $$\bar t(p_0)=-4N\left(\frac{1-p_0}{p_0}\right)ln(1-p_0)$$ , where ...
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How to define “Quasifixation” in continuous approximation of finite population?

Background Many models including the famous very first models derived by Sir Ronald Fisher in his early career, assume infinite population size. In an infinite population, an allele can rise in ...
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What does “Mutational Variance” mean?

Background The concept of mutational variance can be found in many articles including this one for example. The mutational variance of a trait number $i$ can be found in the M-matrix in position ...
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Why do we assume that the first humans were dark-skinned?

According to the article Dark skin and blue eyes: How Europeans once looked: It is widely accepted that Man's oldest common forefather was dark skinned, and that people became more pale as they ...
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Has it been enough time for evolution through simple natural selection?

Let first state that I understand natural selection. I am not asking if evolution happened. I see evolution as a fact, but I do not assume the current theory of natural selection as fact. I wonder if ...
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How does Artificial Selection work?

As far as I know for evolution to work mutations are necessary. Mutations are the raw material on which natural selection works. But mutations are always completely random and human beings have no ...
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What has caused life to choose this unfathomably tiny subset of all possible proteins?

I wonder why life uses the particular proteins that it does, about 10^6 different proteins, I think? Evolution cannot explain it because the number of possible proteins is far far too large to ever ...
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Why don't flies avoid the motorway?

Flies have a short lifespan, therefore evolution should technically happen over a shorter period of time (years). Flies die all the time from getting hit by cars on the motorway. Those flies that ...
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Why are there no tree-like plants that grow in lakes?

Looking at aerial photos of boreal forests, with dense woods clear-cut by quiet lakes, I wondered why exactly are the woods so clear-cut at the edge of water? Why won't trees develop adaptations that ...
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What is the evidence that australopithecines were bipedal?

Before the discovery of Australopithecus afarensis in the 1970s, most anthropologists believed that an increase in brain capacity had preceded bipedal locomotion. However, this reconstruction of the ...
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How did butterflies evolve to have eyes on their wings?

Some butterflies, such as the UK native Peacock butterfly (Google Image Search) have markings on their wings that look just like eyes, complete with a white fleck to imitate a convex, transparency ...
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What is the point of having evolved two nostrils?

How would having two nostrils be advantageous to your sense of smell or your ability to breath? I already hypothesized that either one of the nostrils could act as a back up for when another gets ...
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Evolution: How could all useful traits evolve simultaneously?

I have a basic question about evolution, for which I never found an answer. I understand how evolution works if we focus on one specific organ or trait. With each generation, some organism is more ...
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Are there other mechanisms for mutation besides imperfect DNA replication?

I was reading http://www.askamathematician.com/2012/05/q-is-quantum-randomness-ever-large-enough-to-be-noticed/ and saw: [...] the evolution of entire species can be changed by a single mistake ...
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Theoretically, is domestication of (virtually) any animal possible?

Looking at ones that manage well alongside us human animals, such as dogs and cats, we see that this is possible for evolved, distant animals to have heritable, preferable traits around people. ...
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Why haven't land animals evolved beyond urination?

It occurred to me (while urinating) that this would seem to be selected against because water is a scarce resource. Why are we constantly losing water we don't need to through urination? What is ...
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Variations in Genome Sizes

Why is there wide variation in genome size amongst groups of protists, insects, amphibians and plants, but less variation within groups of mammals and reptiles?
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Experimental evidence for the selfish gene vs. the selfish individual

In the Selfish Gene, Dawkins makes the argument that a better view of evolution (i.e. more in accordance with experiment) is obtained if you view the basic unit of evolution to be the gene rather ...
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What evolutionary pressures pushed Galápagos tortoises to mature so slowly and live so long?

I read that they take up to 40 years (in the wild) to reach the age of reproduction and are thought to live over 100 years, with one in captivity reaching over 170 years. Can someone explain in ...
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Are fish and reptilian scales homologous?

Wikipedia: Fish scales are dermally derived, specifically in the mesoderm. This fact distinguishes them from reptile scales paleontologically. So aren't reptilia scales also dermally derived?
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Evolution of umbilical cord and reason of its elongation

To answer a question myself, recently I've read that Years and years ago, a long umbilical cord enabled a woman to grasp her baby after birth and run away from predators" Update: $Question:$ ...
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Why is dimethyltryptamine (DMT) being released during death?

I'm not very well informed about all the things related to biology and the current achievements of science in this field so if I'm wrong in anything I say, please let me know. Many times I've come ...
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Smallest unit on which selection can act

Traditionally, the individual was considered to be the smallest unit on which Natural Selection (NS) acts. Today, we usually consider the gene as being the unit of NS. Of course, we should also ...
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Is (Brain Mass)/(Total Mass) still considered a valid indicator of intelligence?

I was reading this(1) and it led me back to ask a very basic question (I'm not a neuroscientist). All the way back to undergrad anthropology and neuroscience courses I remember being taught the ...
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170 views

What evolutionary mechanism caused felines to develop purring?

And why can some felines roar while others meow?
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What is the “Spandrels” debate about?

In a former question, as a side question, I asked a clarification about the "Spandrels" paper. Being not a biologist, it was the first time I encoutered it. Subsequently I tried to collect some ...
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Is there theory that connects longevity, time-scale of environmental disturbance, and adaptation?

I'm thinking here about environmental disturbance or like climate change-driven warming. It seems as if there are two macroevolutionary ways to deal with environmental change: 1) Have short ...