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Ernst Mayr's theory illustrated in genetic epidemiology studies

The late, famed evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr's theory of genetic revolution , introduced in 1954, remains controversial to this day and has many detractors.

Mayr believed that genes interacted with one another, and that this genetic interaction in turn led to an interaction of natural selection with genetic drift that could cause genetic revolution ?new directions of evolutionary change.

Detractors of the theory object to what they consider the random nature of genetic drift.

But an evolutionary and population biologist at Washington University in St. Louis says that Mayr's theory has been illustrated nicely in recent years in human genetic epidemiology and population biology studies.

Alan R. Templeton, Ph.D., Washington University professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, said that there is an extensive documentation of genetic interaction over the past few years including his own genetic epidemiology studies of coronary artery disease (CAD).

"These recent results really show that Mayr's ideas were correct," said Templeton. "His theory has been empirically supported very well."

But first, the background. Mayr thought that founder events were very important in the origins of new species. These occur when a very small population of a species gets established in a new area. Because the population is very small, there is a lot of genetic randomness, and there is only a subset of the genetic variation of the ancestral population, and the frequencies of different kinds of genes can be changed dramatically.

Mayr also believed that there is lots of interaction between genes, so that when the frequency of one gene changes randomly, that causes a different suite of interactions to occur so that natural selection will drive the founder population in a different direction. He saw a very strong interaction between natural selection and random forces in a founder population.

"Mayr felt that the inte
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Source:Washington University in St. Louis


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