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Evolutionary Genomics of High Fecundity

Bjarki Eldon
Published: 23 November 2020
Annual Review of Genetics , Volume 54, pp 213-236; doi:10.1146/annurev-genet-021920-095932

Abstract: Natural highly fecund populations abound. These range from viruses to gadids. Many highly fecund populations are economically important. Highly fecund populations provide an important contrast to the low-fecundity organisms that have traditionally been applied in evolutionary studies. A key question regarding high fecundity is whether large numbers of offspring are produced on a regular basis, by few individuals each time, in a sweepstakes mode of reproduction. Such reproduction characteristics are not incorporated into the classical Wright–Fisher model, the standard reference model of population genetics, or similar types of models, in which each individual can produce only small numbers of offspring relative to the population size. The expected genomic footprints of population genetic models of sweepstakes reproduction are very different from those of the Wright–Fisher model. A key, immediate issue involves identifying the footprints of sweepstakes reproduction in genomic data. Whole-genome sequencing data can be used to distinguish the patterns made by sweepstakes reproduction from the patterns made by population growth in a population evolving according to the Wright–Fisher model (or similar models). If the hypothesis of sweepstakes reproduction cannot be rejected, then models of sweepstakes reproduction and associated multiple-merger coalescents will become at least as relevant as the Wright–Fisher model (or similar models) and the Kingman coalescent, the cornerstones of mathematical population genetics, in further discussions of evolutionary genomics of highly fecund populations.
Keywords: models / reproduction / evolutionary / Fisher Model / Wright / Sweepstakes / Highly Fecund / fecund populations

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