Biology as Poetry: Evolutionary Biology

Bacteriophage Ecology Group

Diversifying Selection

Biased reproductive success of distinct morphotypes within populations.

Diversifying selection contrasts with stabilizing selection. The latter is selection for essentially a single aspect within a population, that is, a single trait (though stabilizing selection can and does act on multiple characters simultaneously). Diversifying selection, by contrast, is selection on a specific character that simultaneously is for more than one trait. See equivalently disruptive selection.

Often such selection is a consequence of interspecific interactions where a population is attempting to avoid being too prevalent within an environment from the perspective of this other species. For example, where that other species is a predator and the species subject to diversifying selection is a prey species.

Diversifying selection is similar to stabilizing frequency-dependent selection, that is, where alleles that are found at lower frequencies have a higher fitness than alleles, found at the same locus, that are present within the population at higher frequencies.

Again, such selection typically reflects interspecific interactions, such as efforts by prey or host species to evade predators or parasites. See for example major histocompatability complex (MHC), which plays key roles in combating virus infections and the MHC-encoding loci can be quite diverse within animal populations.

See also divergent evolution.

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