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Fastest possible evolution rate?

What is the theoretically quickest evolution rate?

For example, I could calculate this as the number of offspring an E. coli colony can generate at once * (time frame/time per generation) * mutations per generation, and then assume every organism on earth had this same evolution rate.

Is there a generally accepted value, perhaps based on mass of organism?

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closed as unclear what you're asking by David, Bryan Krause, canadianer, another 'Homo sapien', Satwik Pasani May 10 '17 at 10:42

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Without an explanation for how you are defining "rate" I think this question is fairly meaningless and I suspect it might be rooted in a misunderstanding of the term "evolution". $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 9 '17 at 21:14
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    $\begingroup$ I sometimes like to share this comic in circumstances like this - I don't mean any offense, but I think it sums up the problem nicely if you approach it with an open mind. My point is that a simplistic model will never capture "evolution" because evolution is an incredibly broad theory encompassing many separate parts. For one, although it's reasonable to consider finite length binary strings, biology won't produce genomes of the same length, so you need to consider strings of varying lengths. You very quickly get to a combinatorial explosion. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 11 '17 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ As Remi.b already pointed out, if you allow fitness and phenotype to vary sufficiently, you could state that the rate of evolution is effectively infinite: complete in one generation. So no, I think it is still a poorly defined question. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 12 '17 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ I happened to notice this previous question in the sidebar of a question unrelated to yours, but I thought it might be of some use to you. The question is on selection but the answers get a lot more broad. You won't find a precise answer to your question but it might help you as a starting point to how people have attempted to model relatively abstract evolutionary processes. Like I was alluding to with my cartoon link, though, this is an entire field of work. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 12 '17 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ See How fast is fast? Eco-evolutionary dynamics and rates of change in populations and phenotypes I think this what you were asking about $\endgroup$ – Fizz Oct 14 '17 at 23:44
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Theoretically, it really depends how crazy you want your model to be! Also it depends what you mean by "evolution rate".

Let's consider a very simple and quite crazy model. Let's assume that by evolution rate you mean the difference between mean phenotype between one generation and the next. Let consider a trait (which heritability is $h_N = 1$) which takes only two values $x_1$ and $x_2$. In a given generation, half the individual carry the trait value $x_1$ and half the trait value $x_2$. If the relative fitness of $x_1$ and $x_2$ are 1 and 0 respectively, then the evolution rate is simply $| \frac{x_2 + x_1}{2} - x_1 |$. Allow $x_2$ and $x_1$ to be very big values and the rate of evolution will be very fast. In the most extreme case, $x_1 = \infty$, then the evolution rate is simply infinite.

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  • $\begingroup$ The model needs to incorporate mutation so we don't need to assume the traits already exists in the population. It also helps if there is biological plausibility to the model. $\endgroup$ – yters May 9 '17 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ @yters How is there no biological plausibility to the model? For mutation, simply do not assume x1 and x2 are held by half of the population. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 9 '17 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ @yters The amount of biological plausibility is up to the one that answers. My point was to highlight the question made little sense for this reason. If you ask "In theory, ...." you have to get ready to get an answer that is not practical. Instead you could ask "What is the fastest fastest evolution ever observed?" But then and again, you will really need to define what you mean by "evolution speed". $\endgroup$ – Remi.b May 10 '17 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b, what is a good definition of "evolution speed"? I have no preference in the matter, I just want a good working definition that has evidence behind it. Not being a biologist, I do not know the correct technical terms that will get an answer, so asking me for the correct technical terms is not something I can provide. $\endgroup$ – yters May 13 '17 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ Sure, we typically ask OP not to change their question after it has been answered. So, I edited the question back to what it was when I answered. If the OP has another question he/she must ask it on a different post. Thanks @Fizz for highlighting this issue. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Oct 15 '17 at 0:15

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