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Michigan State University

Natural Selection Could Slow Evolution

Natural selection is usually understood in the context of change. When organisms deviate from the norm, they may gain advantages that let their lineages outlast those of their less-adaptable relative.

But new research from MSU suggests that natural selection also has the power to keep things the same.

Jeff Conner, a professor with the College of Natural Science and the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, and his team have published a new report in the journal New Phytologist that expands science’s understanding of natural selection in the face of another evolutionary mechanism: genetic constraint.

The idea behind constraint is that, as species evolve, they can lose genetic flexibility in certain areas, driving specific traits to stabilize and persist through generations.

“Our work flips the script a little bit,” Conner said. “We’re suggesting that selection can also slow things down, that it can cause similarities as well as differences.”

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