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Jain, Kavita and Stephan, Wolfgang (2017): Rapid Adaptation of a Polygenic Trait After a Sudden Environmental Shift. In: Genetics, Vol. 206, No. 1: pp. 389-406

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Although a number of studies have shown that natural and laboratory populations initially well adapted to their environment can evolve rapidly when conditions suddenly change, the dynamics of rapid adaptation are not well understood. Here a population genetic model of polygenic selection is analyzed to describe the short-term response of a quantitative trait after a sudden shift of the phenotypic optimum. We provide explicit analytical expressions for the timescales over which the trait mean approaches the new optimum. We find that when the effect sizes are small relative to a scaled mutation rate, small to moderate allele frequency changes occur in the short-term phase in a synergistic fashion. In contrast, selective sweeps, i.e., dramatic changes in the allele frequency, may occur provided the size of the effect is sufficiently large. Applications of our theoretical results to the relationship between QTL and selective sweep mapping and to tests of fast polygenic adaptation are discussed.

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