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Imagine a population of ten individuals, half with allele A and half with allele a (the individuals are haploid). In a stable population, the next generation will also have ten individuals. Choose that generation randomly by flipping a coin ten times and let heads be A and tails be a . It is unlikely that the next generation will have exactly half of each allele. There might be six of one and four of the other, or some different set of frequencies. Thus, the allele frequencies have changed and evolution has occurred. A coin will no longer work to choose the next generation (because the odds are no longer one half for each allele). The frequency in each generation will drift up and down on what is known as a random walk until at one point either all A or all a are chosen and that allele is fixed from that point on. This could take a very long time for a large population. This simplification is not very biological, but it can be shown that real populations behave this way. The effect of drift on frequencies is greater the smaller a population is. Its effect is also greater on an allele with a frequency far from one half. Drift will influence every allele, even those that are being naturally selected.

Art connection

A population has ten rabbits. Three of these rabbits are homozygous dominant for the A allele and have brown coat color. Five are heterozygous and also have brown coat color. Two are homozygous recessive and have white coat color. The frequency of the capital A allele, p, is .5 and the frequency of the small a allele, q, is also .5. Only five of the rabbits, including two homozygous dominant and three heterozygous individuals, produce offspring. Five of the resulting offspring are homozygous dominant, four are heterozygous, and one is homozygous recessive. The frequency of alleles in the second generation is p=.7 and q=.3. Only two rabbits in the second generation produce offspring, and both of these are homozygous dominant. As a result, the recessive small a allele is lost in the third generation, and all of the rabbits are heterozygous dominant with brown coat color.
Genetic drift in a population can lead to the elimination of an allele from a population by chance. In each generation, a random set of individuals reproduces to produce the next generation. The frequency of alleles in the next generation is equal to the frequency of alleles among the individuals reproducing.

Do you think genetic drift would happen more quickly on an island or on the mainland?

Genetic drift can also be magnified by natural or human-caused events, such as a disaster that randomly kills a large portion of the population, which is known as the bottleneck effect    that results in a large portion of the genome suddenly being wiped out ( [link] ). In one fell swoop, the genetic structure of the survivors becomes the genetic structure of the entire population, which may be very different from the pre-disaster population. The disaster must be one that kills for reasons unrelated to the organism’s traits, such as a hurricane or lava flow. A mass killing caused by unusually cold temperatures at night, is likely to affect individuals differently depending on the alleles they possess that confer cold hardiness.

Illustration shows a narrow-neck bottle filled with red, orange, and green marbles tipped so the marbles pour into a glass. Because of the bottleneck, only seven marbles escape, and these are all orange and green. The marbles in the bottle represent the original population, and the marbles in the glass represent the surviving population. Because of the bottleneck effect, the surviving population is less diverse than the original population.
A chance event or catastrophe can reduce the genetic variability within a population.

Another scenario in which populations might experience a strong influence of genetic drift is if some portion of the population leaves to start a new population in a new location, or if a population gets divided by a physical barrier of some kind. In this situation, those individuals are unlikely to be representative of the entire population which results in the founder effect    . The founder effect occurs when the genetic structure matches that of the new population’s founding fathers and mothers. The founder effect is believed to have been a key factor in the genetic history of the Afrikaner population of Dutch settlers in South Africa, as evidenced by mutations that are common in Afrikaners but rare in most other populations. This is likely due to a higher-than-normal proportion of the founding colonists, which were a small sample of the original population, carried these mutations. As a result, the population expresses unusually high incidences of Huntington’s disease (HD) and Fanconi anemia (FA), a genetic disorder known to cause bone marrow and congenital abnormalities, and even cancer. A. J. Tipping et al., “Molecular and Genealogical Evidence for a Founder Effect in Fanconi Anemia Families of the Afrikaner Population of South Africa,” PNAS 98, no. 10 (2001): 5734-5739, doi: 10.1073/pnas.091402398.

Concept in action

Visit this site to learn more about genetic drift and to run simulations of allele changes caused by drift.

Gene flow

Another important evolutionary force is gene flow    , or the flow of alleles in and out of a population resulting from the migration of individuals or gametes ( [link] ). While some populations are fairly stable, others experience more flux. Many plants, for example, send their seeds far and wide, by wind or in the guts of animals; these seeds may introduce alleles common in the source population to a new population in which they are rare.

Illustration shows an individual from a population of brown beetles traveling toward a population of green beetles.
Gene flow can occur when an individual travels from one geographic location to another and joins a different population of the species. In the example shown here, the brown allele is introduced into the green population.

Section summary

There are four factors that can change the allele frequencies of a population. Natural selection works by selecting for alleles that confer beneficial traits or behaviors, while selecting against those for deleterious qualities. Mutations introduce new alleles into a population. Genetic drift stems from the chance occurrence that some individuals have more offspring than others and results in changes in allele frequencies that are random in direction. When individuals leave or join the population, allele frequencies can change as a result of gene flow.

Art connections

[link] Do you think genetic drift would happen more quickly on an island or on the mainland?

[link] Genetic drift is likely to occur more rapidly on an island, where smaller populations are expected to occur.

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Questions & Answers

Species A has 12 pairs of chromosomes and Species B has 11 pairs of chromosomes. Explain what occurs during mitosis and during meiosis in the hybrid that allows normal development and growth from zygote to adult, but causes the adults to be sterile.
Christina Reply
Why does water move through a membrane?
Christina Reply
How many bones are in the human skeleton
Treasure Reply
procce of digestion of proteins a long human alimentarycanal
Carson Reply
what are the properties of lipids?
Isiah Reply
They are: Fatty acids, fats, oils, waxes, phospholipid, glycolipids, steroids and some vitamins
explain why a fresh water fish excrete ammonia
Leonard Reply
plz answer my question
sorry i meant it has a nucleous unlike plant cells lol
Ammonia is the end product of protein catabolism and is stored in the body of the fish in high concentrations relative to basal excretion rates. Ammonia, if allowed to accumulate, is toxic and is converted to less toxic compounds or excreted
What are eukaryotic cells?
Nwosueke Reply
cell with no nucleous so not a plant cell
eukaryotic cells are membrane bound organelles that have a membrane bound nucleus
where does the cell get energy for active transport processes?
A'Kaysion Reply
IDK maybe glucose
what is synapsis
Adepoju Reply
how many turns are required to make a molecule of sucrose in Calvin cycle
Amina Reply
why Calvin cycle occurs in stroma
why do humans enhale oxygen and exhale carbondioxide?
Maryam Reply
why do humans enhale oxygen and exhale carbondioxide? For the purpose of breaking down the food
what is allele
uzoka Reply
process of protein synthesis
what is cell
Zulf Reply
a cell is a smallest basic, structural and functional unit of life that is capable of self replication
why does a fresh water fish excrete ammonia
plz answer my question
Ammonia is a toxic colorless gas and when its inside the fish biological system is converted to a less toxic compound then excreted in the form of urea. However too much ammonia will kill the fish " Ammonia Poisoning " which is a very common disease among fish.
what is cytoplasm
uzoka Reply
cytoplasm is fluid of cell.

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