Genetics and adaptation in structured populations: Sex ratio evolution in Silene vulgaris

Matthew S. Olson, David E. McCauley, Douglas Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Theoretical models suggest that population structure can interact with frequency dependent selection to affect fitness in such a way that adaptation is dependent not only on the genotype of an individual and the genotypes with which it co-occurs within populations (demes), but also the distribution of genotypes among populations. A canonical example is the evolution of altruistic behavior, where the costs and benefits of cooperation depend on the local frequency of other altruists, and can vary from one population to another. Here we review research on sex ratio evolution that we have conducted over the past several years on the gynodioecious herb Silene vulgaris in which we combine studies of negative frequency dependent fitness on female phenotypes with studies of the population structure of cytoplasmic genes affecting sex expression. This is presented as a contrast to a hypothetical example of selection on similar genotypes and phenotypes, but in the absence of population structure. Sex ratio evolution in Silene vulgaris provides one of the clearest examples of how selection occurs at multiple levels and how population structure, per se, can influence adaptive evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-62
Number of pages14
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 2005


  • Cytoplasmic male sterility
  • Gynodioecy
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Subjective fitness


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