The genotype of an individual means the entire genetic makeup of the individual. Therefore, there is plenty of variation in the genetic makeup of a population. The total of these genotypes is termed as gene pool. The gene pool also contains a variety of genes called alleles that differ.
For a particular gene, the entire population is categorized and investigated by the frequency of the various alleles present in the genotypes of all membranes. Allele frequency is defined as the number of times an allele is occurring in the gene pool relative to various alleles of the same gene.
Population genetics and microevolution is based on various factors:
Natural selection allows variation among the population by making different organisms adapt to changing environments. Genes that survive in extreme conditions make that particular fit to survive else lead to its extinction. Certain traits are influenced and evolve along with changing the environment. For example, giraffes have a long neck as their phenotypic trait. However, changing the environmental crisis has resulted in large-scale deforestation. Due to the declining availability of tall trees, giraffe finds it difficult to consume food. The vulnerability of population changes with climate change and novel diseases. This will increase with a decrease in genetic diversity.
Large populations maintain genetic material that has higher genetic diversity. However, diversity begins at small populations and the changes happening are called microevolution.
Genetic drift is defined as a random modification in the relative allele frequencies that occur in a small population. Since the changes occur by chance, genetic drift is one of the major contributors to microevolution. Genetic drift is prominent in all generations and is regarded as a continuous evolutionary processe. The allele frequencies might vary from the parents in case the parents generate lesser offsprings. This kind of variation by chance leads to the drift of allele frequencies over the time. This chance also has a role in determining whether the offspring survive and reproduce. Unlike natural selection, changes in genetic drift are not based on environmental and adaptive factors. Therefore, the changes can be beneficial, harmful, or neutral. However, there are debates on whether genetic drift is more important as an agent of microevolution than natural selection. This is similar to tossing a coin. When you toss a coin just a few times, by chance you might get more or less than the expected 50 percent heads and tails.
Genetic drift occurs in two specialized conditions namely the founder effect and the bottleneck effect.
Sudden decrease in population causes the bottleneck effect. This might occur as a result of a natural disaster like a forest fire or an epidemic. The survivor allele frequencies might vary when compared to the original population.
When certain individuals associate with new populations, it leads to the founder effect. Allele frequencies of the original population or founders may be distinguished or unique from allele frequencies of the population they left.
Genetic variations are generated by random mutations. A mutation can be an addition or deletion to the gene pool. However, as mentioned above, the sustenance of this gene is dependent on drift and natural selection. Beneficial mutations are transmitted to future generations and hence are known to possess long-run positive consequences. Mutation rates differ across different species, that is, larger populations mutate at greater rates than the smaller populations.
Gene flow occurs as a result of migration. There is a movement of genetic material when a species travels from one location to another.
For example, Anopheles gambiae African mosquitoes acquired an insecticide-resistant mutation. When A. gambiae mosquitoes migrated to a population of Anopheles coluzziin mosquitoes, they transferred beneficial resistance genes to the new population.
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