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Glaser‐Schmitt, Amanda; Ramnarine, Timothy J. S. and Parsch, John ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9068-5549 (2023): Rapid evolutionary change, constraints and the maintenance of polymorphism in natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster. In: Molecular Ecology [PDF, 2MB]


Allele frequencies can shift rapidly within natural populations. Under certain conditions, repeated rapid allele frequency shifts can lead to the long-term maintenance of polymorphism. In recent years, studies of the model insect Drosophila melanogaster have suggested that this phenomenon is more common than previously believed and is often driven by some form of balancing selection, such as temporally fluctuating or sexually antagonistic selection. Here we discuss some of the general insights into rapid evolutionary change revealed by large-scale population genomic studies, as well as the functional and mechanistic causes of rapid adaptation uncovered by single-gene studies. As an example of the latter, we consider a regulatory polymorphism of the D. melanogaster fezzik gene. Polymorphism at this site has been maintained at intermediate frequency over an extended period of time. Regular observations from a single population over a period of 7 years revealed significant differences in the frequency of the derived allele and its variance across collections between the sexes. These patterns are highly unlikely to arise from genetic drift alone or from the action of sexually antagonistic or temporally fluctuating selection individually. Instead, the joint action of sexually antagonistic and temporally fluctuating selection can best explain the observed rapid and repeated allele frequency shifts. Temporal studies such as those reviewed here further our understanding of how rapid changes in selection can lead to the long-term maintenance of polymorphism as well as improve our knowledge of the forces driving and limiting adaptation in nature.

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