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The importance of the Neutral Theory in 1968 and 50 years on: a response to Kern and Hahn 2018

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-114
Number of pages4
Issue number1
Early online date21 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


A recent article reassessing the Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution claims that it is no longer as important as is widely believed. The authors argue that "the neutral theory was supported by unreliable theoretical and empirical evidence from the beginning, and that in light of modern, genome-scale data, we can firmly reject its universality." Claiming that "the neutral theory has been overwhelmingly rejected," they propose instead that natural selection is the major force shaping both between-species divergence and within-species variation. Although this is probably a minority view, it is important to evaluate such claims carefully in the context of current knowledge, as inaccuracies can sometimes morph into an accepted narrative for those not familiar with the underlying science. We here critically examine and ultimately reject Kern and Hahn's arguments and assessment, and instead propose that it is now abundantly clear that the foundational ideas presented five decades ago by Kimura and Ohta are indeed correct.

    Research areas

  • Population Genetics, The Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution

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