After your visit, take a short survey
to improve this site. You will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card. Take survey now
The big issues
Mechanisms of microevolution
There are a few basic ways in which microevolutionary change happens. Mutation, migration,
genetic drift, and natural selection are all processes that can directly
affect gene frequencies in a population.
Imagine that you observe an increase in the frequency of brown coloration
genes and a decrease in the frequency of green coloration genes in a
beetle population. Any combination of the mechanisms of microevolution
might be responsible for the pattern, and part of the scientist's job
is to figure out which of these mechanisms caused the change:
Some "green genes" randomly mutated to "brown genes" (although
since any particular mutation is rare, this process alone cannot account
for a big change in allele frequency over one generation).
Migration (or gene flow)
Some beetles with brown genes immigrated from another population, or some beetles carrying green genes emigrated.
When the beetles reproduced, just by random
luck more brown genes than green genes ended up in the offspring. In the diagram at right, brown
genes occur slightly more frequently in the offspring (29%) than in the parent generation (25%).
Beetles with brown genes escaped predation
and survived to reproduce more frequently than beetles with green genes,
so that more brown genes got into the next generation.
You've reached the end of this section, but if you'd like to continue reading through Evolution 101, click the 'next' button below. Or you can go back to the Evolution 101 cover page.
page 4 of 4