Comparing the effects of genetic drift and fluctuating selection on genotype frequency changes in the scarlet tiger moth

R. B. O'Hara


One of the recurring arguments in evolutionary biology is whether evolution occurs principally through natural selection or through neutral processes such as genetic drift. A 60–year–long time series of changes in the genotype frequency of a colour polymorphism of the scarlet tiger moth, Callimorpha dominula, was used to compare the relative effects of genetic drift and variable natural selection. The analysis showed that most of the variation in frequency was the result of genetic drift. In addition, although selection was acting, mean fitness barely increased. This supports the ‘Red Queen's hypothesis’ that long–term improvements in fitness may not occur, because populations have to keep pace with changes in the environment.