In this paper we present a mathematical model of mutation and selection that allows for the coexistence of multiple alleles at a locus with very small selective differences between alleles. The model also allows for the determination of fitness by multiple loci. Models of this sort are biologically plausible. However, some previous attempts to construct similar models have assumed that all mutations produce a decrease in fitness, and this has led to a tendency for the average fitness of population members to decline when population numbers are finite. In our model we incorporate some of the ideas of R. A. Fisher, so that both deleterious and beneficial mutations are possible. As a result, average fitness tends to approach a stationary distribution. We have used computer simulation methods to apply the Fisherian mutation model to the problem of the evolution of sex and recombination. The results suggest that sex and recombination can provide very large benefits in terms of average fitness. The results also suggest that obligately sexual species will win ecological competitions with species that produce a substantial fraction of their offspring asexually, so long as the number of sites under selection within the genomes of the competing species is not too small and the population sizes are not too large. Our model focuses on fertility selection in an hermaphroditic plant. However, the results are likely to generalize to a wide variety of other situations as well.
- Received July 3, 1995.
- Accepted November 18, 1996.
- Copyright © 1997 by the Genetics Society of America