Masatoshi Nei


Evolutionary biology must recognise Masatoshi Nei's merit for three outstanding contributions: (1) an advancement in the scientific status of the discipline, which has been made by ‘molecular evolutionary biology’ more quantitative through a set of statistical methods for studying genetic diversity, changes in DNA, neutral evolution and molecular phylogenies; (2) the application of Nei's evolutionary genetic distance to the phylogenetic tree of human populations, supporting the out of Africa model of global dispersal, and (3) the overall recognition of the central role of mutations in evolution and the idea that the changes in DNA are not just ‘raw material’ for the natural selection but the main sources of innovation. Nei's alternative theory of evolution, intended as a process driven by mutation, seems biased by a narrow focus on molecular determination and tends to underestimate the large corpus of interdisciplinary evidence supporting the causal role of selective processes in evolution.

Keywords: genetic distance; molecular evolutionary biology; molecular phylogenies; mutation‐driven evolution; neighbour‐joining method; neutral evolution; out of Africa; tree inference

Further Reading

Nei M (1972) Genetic distance between populations. The American Naturalist 106: 283–292.

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

Nei M (2013) Mutation‐Driven Evolution. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Nei M and Kumar S (2000) Molecular Evolution and Phylogenetics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Saitou N and Nei M (1987) The neighbor‐joining method: a new method for reconstructing phylogenetic trees. Molecular Biology and Evolution 4: 406–425.

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How to Cite close
Pievani, Telmo(Apr 2015) Masatoshi Nei. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005308]