Journal and Proceedings of The Royal Society of New South Wales Volume 120 Parts 1 and 2 [Issued September, 1987]




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LINKS: AND TOWARDS A MOLECULAR POPULATION GENETICS


Clearly, not only do we need links between the various levels at which evolution is studied, but this need is being filled through the emergence of a molecular population genetics. Or, more strictly, a molecular population genetics concerned with multi-level selection, because, as chronicled by Kimura (1983), a molecular population genetics dealing with the relative strengths of drift and selection has been around since the mid-1960s, concerned with evolution by substitution of one base for another in coding DNA. A prime task of the new molecular population genetics should be finding out the actual molecular changes which occur in response to selection, both in the short and in the long term.

Evolutionary biologists generally fall into one of two types. There are those who uncover what forms of selection are acting on organisms to bring adaptive evolution about. Then there are those who study the genetic machinery in the search for long-term effects of selection. While these two groups have not always taken much notice of each other, the two approaches are not only complementary, but should be combined. The realisation that DNA can be, and almost certainly often is, selfish should heighten the appreciation of the links between the two approaches.

Finally, I ask you to look again at the heads of those two remarkable animals, Drosophila heteroneura and D. silvestris. What has happened at the molecular level to bring about such a massive change? I hope that molecular population geneticists will see it as a major task to map the genetic changes involved in major alterations in development of this kind and then sequence them to see what has happened. When we know what happened to so diversify these two bizarrely-different yet closely related fly species, we will know a lot more about the process of adaptation itself.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


I thank Bill Brown, Michael Crosland, Tony Mackinlay, George Milklos, and Christian Peeters for helpful comments on the manuscript, and the Australian Research Grants Scheme and the University of New South Wales for supporting my work on evolutionary genetics.

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R. H. Crozier


School of Zoology
The University of New South Wales
P.O. Box 1
Kensington, NSW 2033
AUSTRALIA

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