The term genetic drift is applied in the genetics of population and it refers to statistical drift that is noted with time of gene frequencies within a population which is as a result of random sample effects in successive generations’ formation. This evolution mechanism occurs as a result of random chance and not natural selection.
In the case of genetic drift, the population experiences changes in frequency of a specified allele which is triggered by arbitrary luck instead of adaptation need. Consequently, it is different from natural selection through which allelic frequency gets altered on the basis of the fittest genes which survive while the weaker genes die off. The phenomenon of genetic drift usually occurs among small populations while larger populations are often subjected to natural selection.
A genetic variant or allele is the gene component that produces a particular trait. A good example is the existence of both white and red worms within the same population. If these two worms mate, each passes an allele to the offspring white or red forming a gene. The strong or dominant allele determines which traits the new born worm is going to have. In the event the white one is dominant, then the new worm is going to be white as well and vice versa.
During instances when the worm gets two similar recessive alleles, then it exhibits recessive features. Note that while genetics is complex compared to this example, it provides the general concept of what genetic drift is all about. Often, genetic drift causes gene variants to completely disappear and can also cause genetic variation. Whenever there are a few allele copies, genetic drift effect is larger and whenever the copies are more the effect is less. Debate has always been rife on the comparative importance of natural selection versus that of neutral processes such as genetic drift.
The view held by Ronald Fisher was that genetic drift plays a crucial role in evolution and for decades, this view was held as the dominant one. The debate was however rekindled by Motoo Kimura when he came up with the neutral molecular evolution theory which states in most cases where there is a change in genetics spread across the population, the cause if genetic drift.
Genetic drift also occurs as a result of random sample errors. An error arises when the sample exhibits results that are different from what the entire population exhibits. For instance in the case where scientists have 50 red and white forms then they select 10 randomly, the sample is small and hence, the alleles that are passed in the group does not even out as would be the case in a group consisting of 100 worms.
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