Skip to main content
No Access

The Effect of Selection on Genetic Variability

If a metric character is determined by an effectively infinite number of loci, selection cannot cause any permanent change in the genetic variance but will cause a temporary change which is rapidly reversed when selection ceases. This change is due entirely to the correlation between pairs of loci which is induced by selection; the correlation is negative, leading to a reduction in the genetic variance under stabilizing or directional selection, and is positive, leading to an increase in the variance under disruptive selection. When selection ceases, the correlation rapidly disappears as joint equilibrium at pairs of loci is reestablished, and the variance returns to its original value. An expression is derived for the predicted amount of change in the genetic variance due to disequilibrium in the absence of linkage. The change is likely to be small under selection intensities found under natural conditions, but it may be appreciable under intense artificial selection. This limiting result shows that the magnitude of any permanent change in the variance due to selection must decrease as the number of loci involved increases and that, when the number of loci is large, it is likely to be much less than the temporary change due to disequilibrium.