Molecular Evolution: Neutral Theory


The neutral theory is shorthand for the theory that at the molecular level evolutionary changes and polymorphisms are mainly due to selectively neutral mutations; thus, their behaviour and fate are determined by mutation and random drift. The theory explains polymorphism as a transient phase of molecular evolution, and demands a dichotomy between molecular and phenotypic evolution.

Keywords: neutrality; natural selection; population genetics; selective constraint


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Further Reading

Kimura M (1983) The Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kimura M (1994) Population Genetics, Molecular Evolution, and The Neutral Theory, Selected papers; Takahata N (ed.) with a foreword by Crow JF. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Li WH (1997) Molecular Evolution. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

Nei M (1987) Molecular Evolutionary Genetics. New York: Columbia University Press.

Ohta T (2002) Near‐neutrality in evolution of genes and gene regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 99: 16134–16137.

Takahata N (1996) Neutral theory of molecular evolution. Current Opinion in Genetics and Development 6: 767–772.

Takahata N and Kimura M (1994) The neutral theory of molecular evolution. In: Bittar EE and Bittar N (eds) Principles of Medical Biology, vol. 1B, Evolutionary Biology, pp. 205–234. London: JAI Press.

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Takahata, Naoyuki(Dec 2007) Molecular Evolution: Neutral Theory. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001800.pub2]