Adaptive Evolution

Section Summary

Because natural selection acts to increase the frequency of beneficial alleles and traits while decreasing the frequency of deleterious qualities, it is adaptive evolution. Natural selection acts at the individual level, selecting for those that have a higher overall fitness compared to the rest of the population. If the fit phenotypes are those that are similar, natural selection will result in stabilizing selection, and an overall decrease in the population’s variation. Directional selection works to shift a population’s variance toward a new, fit phenotype, as environmental conditions change. In contrast, diversifying selection results in increased genetic variance by selecting for two or more distinct phenotypes.

Other types of selection include frequency-dependent selection, in which individuals with either common (positive frequency-dependent selection) or rare (negative frequency-dependent selection) are selected. Finally, sexual selection results from one sex having more variance in the reproductive success than the other. As a result, males and females experience different selective pressures, which can often lead to the evolution of phenotypic differences, or sexual dimorphisms, between the two.