Population Genetics

Section Summary

Both genetic and environmental factors can cause phenotypic variation in a population. Different alleles can confer different phenotypes, and different environments can also cause individuals to look or act differently. Only those differences encoded in an individual’s genes, however, can pass to its offspring and, thus, be a target of natural selection. Natural selection works by selecting for alleles that confer beneficial traits or behaviors, while selecting against those for deleterious qualities. Genetic drift stems from the chance occurrence that some individuals in the gene line have more offspring than others. When individuals leave or join the population, allele frequencies can change as a result of gene flow. Mutations to an individual’s DNA may introduce new variation into a population. Allele frequencies can also alter when individuals do not randomly mate with others in the group.