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Distinguishing Drift and Selection Empirically: “The Great Snail Debate” of the 1950s

Millstein, Roberta L. (2007) Distinguishing Drift and Selection Empirically: “The Great Snail Debate” of the 1950s. [Preprint]


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Biologists and philosophers have been extremely pessimistic about the possibility of demonstrating random drift in nature, particularly when it comes to distinguishing random drift from natural selection. However, examination of a historical case - Maxime Lamotte's study of natural populations of the land snail, Cepaea nemoralis in the 1950s - shows that while some pessimism is warranted, it has been overstated. Indeed, by describing a unique signature for drift and showing that this signature obtained in the populations under study, Lamotte was able to make a good case for a significant role for drift. It may be difficult to disentangle the causes of drift and selection acting in a population, but it is not (always) impossible.

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Item Type: Preprint
Millstein, Roberta L.
Additional Information: Forthcoming in the Journal of the History of Biology
Keywords: adaptationism, Arthur J. Cain, conspicuous polymorphism, Cepaea nemoralis, random genetic drift, ecological genetics, evolution, Philip M. Sheppard, Maxime Lamotte, natural selection, selectionist
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Depositing User: Dr. Roberta L. Millstein
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2007
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:15
Item ID: 3413

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