Fisher’s historic 1922 paper On the dominance ratio

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Abstract

R.A. Fisher’s 1922 paper On the dominance ratio has a strong claim to be the foundation paper for modern population genetics. It greatly influenced subsequent work by Haldane and Wright, and contributed 3 major innovations to the study of evolution at the genetic level. First, the introduction of a general model of selection at a single locus, which showed how variability could be maintained by heterozygote advantage. Second, the use of the branching process approach to show that a beneficial mutation has a substantial chance of loss from the population, even when the population size is extremely large. Third, the invention of the concept of a probability distribution of allele frequency, caused by random sampling of allele frequencies due to finite population size, and the first use of a diffusion equation to investigate the properties of such a distribution. Although Fisher was motivated by an inference that later turned out to lack strong empirical support (a substantial contribution of dominance to quantitative trait variability), and his use of a diffusion equation was marred by a technical mistake, the paper introduced concepts and methods that pervade much subsequent work in population genetics.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalGenetics
Volume220
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • branching process
  • diffusion equation
  • dominance ratio
  • allele frequency distribution
  • heterozygote advantage
  • population size

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