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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 the Molecular Biology?
Service Reply
The branch of biology that deals with the structure and function of the macromolecules (e.g. proteins and nucleic acids) essential to life.
Sam
what is the difference between mitosis and meiosis?
Fatima Reply
what is an element
Saidu Reply
Element is any one of the simplest chemical substances that cannot be decomposed in a chemical reaction.
Lucky
an element is a substance that cannot be broken down into any other substance
Akosua
explain why only one sperm fertilisers the ovum
Frazzy Reply
its because other sperms are destroyed on the way
Nasib
what is cell
Dau Reply
Cell is the smallest unit of life
Yodit
cell refers of the basic, structural and function unit of an organism
jacob
smallest functional unit of an organism
Nasib
explain for me for ecological factors affecting each of aquatic and terrestrial habitats
Ikeh Reply
Temperature, high humidity
Afriyie
50%
Yodit
temperature,light intensity,Co2
Nasib
what's meosis
Umoke Reply
meiosis this is the type of cell division which reduces the number of chromosomes in order to form a gamete
Caren
meiosis refers to the form of cell division in which a cell divides into four daughter nuclei each containing the same number of chromosomes as the parent cell
Bigenis
yes
Marah
cell division where one cell sprits into 4 daughter cells each having half number of chromosomes as parent cell
Nasib
The end of the linear chromosomes are maintained by
birabwa Reply
Gene
Afriyie
Telomerase
birabwa
is the process of undigested food in body
Enoch Reply
Hi
Afriyie
hello
birabwa
hi
Boame
Hello
kanahiya
Yeah
Jerry
what up nigga
Aidan
hello
Gajanan
Help me, I'm new here.
Sam
What is biology
Hope Reply
What is DNA in full
birabwa
Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid
ibrahim
deoxyibonucleic acid
jacob
Deoxyribonucleic acid
Afriyie
is the study of living things and their interactions with the environment
jacob
is the energy production of studying in life (every living things)
Enoch
de-oxybonuclic acid
Fafali
Biology is the study of life.
Euchy
Biology is the study of plant, animal and it's environment
Eze
biology is the branch of science that deal with plants and living organism
Dominic
what's the difference between bi-enial crops and perennial crops
Johnson Reply
Bi-enial crops are crops that live/exist/can last for as long as 2 years while perennial crops are crops that are evergreen and can last eternity or an inestimable amount of time.
Joanna
what isrespiration
Massa Reply
Mg is very important part of enzymes which deal with DNA. It is a very simple reason but overlooked.
Eric Reply
what mitochondria means
ADEDAYO Reply
its is the most universal organelle among eukaryotes,it is surrounded by double membrane and in it are foldings and invaginationscalled cristae where areobic respiration takes place
Alex
an organelle found in large number in most cell ,in which the biochemical process of respiration and energy production occur
jacob
Mitochondria is the power house of a cell
Joanna
is the energy production in a female hormones
Enoch
how does a cell look like
Clara 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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