The distribution of fitness effects in an uncertain world

Timothy Connallon, Andrew Godfrey B Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The distribution of fitness effects (DFE) among new mutations plays a critical role in adaptive evolution and the maintenance of genetic variation. Although fitness landscape models predict several key features of the DFE, most theory to date focuses on predictable environmental conditions, while ignoring stochastic environmental fluctuations that feature prominently in the ecology of many organisms. Here, we derive an extension of Fisher s geometric model that incorporates two common effects of environmental variation: (1) nonadaptive genotype-by-environment interactions (G ? E), in which the phenotype of a given genotype varies across environmental contexts; and (2) random fluctuation of the fitness optimum, which generates fluctuating selection. We show that both factors cause a mismatch between the DFE within single generations and the distribution of geometric mean fitness effects (averaged over multiple generations) that governs long-term evolutionary change. Such mismatches permit strong evolutionary constraints-despite an abundance of beneficial fitness variation within single environmental contexts-and to conflicting DFE estimates from direct versus indirect inference methods. Finally, our results suggest an intriguing parallel between the genetics and ecology of evolutionary constraints, with environmental fluctuations and pleiotropy placing qualitatively similar limits on the availability of adaptive genetic variation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1610 - 1618
Number of pages9
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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