The course covers a range of current topics in evolutionary and quantitative genetics, with two main aims: 1) to expose students to important, open questions in the field and 2) to help them learn how to read research papers carefully and critically. This year we will focus on the genetic basis of adaptation. Adaptation is the dynamic evolutionary process by which an organism’s fitness increases in a particular environment via changes in the frequencies of alleles contributing to heritable phenotypic trait variation. Recent evidence from human genetics, and past evidence in quantitative genetics in a variety of organisms, indicate the heritable variation in many traits is highly polygenic, suggesting that when selection pressures change, adaptation should be highly polygenic as well. At the same time, there appear to be many examples in which adaptation occured by large effect changes in few genes. We will review the theory and evidence, with the goal of understanding when we should expect adaptation to proceed by these different modes.
Department of Biological Sciences
500 Fairchild Center
Mail Code 2401
1212 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027