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Genetic Diversity

Biology/Env S 204
Spring 2009

Genetic diversity
Heritable variation within and between
populations of organisms
Encoded in the sequence of 4 basepairs that make up DNA
Arises by mutations in genes
and chromosomes

Genetic Diversity
Very small fraction of genetic
diversity is outwardly expressed
Estimated 109 different genes across
the Earths biota
Represents a largely untapped genetic
library

Genetic Diversity
Genetic diversity is the foundation for
all higher levels of biodiversity
Genetic diversity provides the recipe
for populations and species, which in
turn form communities and ecosystems
Genetic variation enables evolutionary
change and artificial selection

Genetic Diversity
Genetic diversity may have direct economic
value (genes for disease resistance,
biologically active compounds)
But effective conservation for whatever
purpose depends upon accurate, thoughtful
assessment of genetic diversity
Preservation of genetic diversity is usually
a high priority in conservation programs

Nature of Genetic Diversity


Information for all of life
stored in the structure
of DNA
Genetic code or the units
(bases, nucleotides) that
make up DNA are
essentially universal

Nature of Genetic Diversity


A length of DNA (often with extra
proteins) is a chromosome
A section of DNA along the
chromosome that contains the
information to make a protein (or
RNA) is a gene

Chromosome structure
gene

gene

gene

gene

chromosome

DNA Structure
A
T
T
G
C
T
G
G
A
C
A
T

T
A
A
C
G
A
C
C
T
G
T
A

Bases:
A = adenine
T = thymine
C = cytosine
G = guanine

Nature of Genetic Diversity


A gene may be several hundred to up
to about two thousand units (bases)
long
A gene contains the information to
make a protein or RNA
A gene is a discrete unit of
hereditary information

Nature of Genetic Diversity

gene

gene

protein (enzymes, membranes, etc.)

RNA (essential for production


of proteins)

Nature of Genetic Diversity


A given gene may have more than one form;
the different forms of a single gene are
called alleles.

flower color
gene with
two alleles

Nature of Genetic Diversity

flower color

Nature of Genetic Diversity

or

flower color
gene

Homozygous
(both alleles in an
individual are the same)

Heterozygous
(two different alleles
present in an individual
for one gene)

Nature of Genetic Diversity


Prokaryotes vs. Eukaryotes

bacteria,
archaebacteria

protists, fungi,
plants, animals

Prokaryotes
One-celled, no compartments (no
nucleus)
Genetic material in a single, circular
chromosome
Therefore only 1 copy of each gene
per bacterium
A typical bacterium has 1,000-2,000
genes

Eukaryotes
One-celled or many-celled, with
compartments (e.g., a nucleus is present)
Genetic material in two to many linear,
separate chromosomes in the nucleus
Normally two copies of each gene present
in an individual in part of the life cycle
A eukaryote has about 50,000 genes on
average

Origin of Genetic Diversity


Mutation = change in the sequence of
bases of DNA along a chromosome
Change in a base or chunks of DNA
can be rearranged
Mutations can occur anywhere along a
chromosome
This is the ultimate source of all
genetic variation

Measuring Genetic Diversity


Chromosome = a collection of genes
plus extra DNA in between that
doesnt code for anything
Genes are used in measuring genetic
diversity but
The extra DNA is free to change
and is also useful in assessing genetic
diversity

Measuring Genetic Diversity


Different parts of the DNA evolve at
different ratesextra DNA changes
faster than DNA in the genes
Some genes evolve slowly and help in
the study of deep branches of life
(ancient lineages)
Extra DNA can change so rapidly
that every individual is distinct
(except for clones)

Measuring Genetic Diversity


Within an individual: %
heterozygosity (alleles same or
different in a given set of genes)
Among individuals in a population:
allele frequencies for given genes
Between populations: %
heterozygosity, allele frequencies,
unique molecular markers

Measuring Genetic Diversity


Measuring diversity between
evolutionary lineages usually
involves comparing sequences of
DNA and looking for changes in
bases or major rearrangments.

Measuring Genetic Diversity


Loss of genetic diversity = loss of
useful genetic diversity in the
short term and reduction of
evolutionary options in the long
term.

Evolutionary Processes
1) Natural Selection
2) Gene Flow

3) Genetic Drift

Evolutionary Processes
1) Natural Selection
A major mechanism of evolution as proposed
by Darwin
A filter for genetic variation: the best
adapted individuals survive and reproduce in
greater numbers over time
Not a directed process!
Changes in direction and intensity depend
on conditions and time span and available
genetic diversity

Evolutionary Processes
1) Natural Selection

SURVIVOR
http://science.discovery.com/interactives/literacy/darwin/darwin.html

Evolutionary Processes
2) Gene Flow
The exchange of genetic material
within a population, between
populations of a species, and even
between species
Gene flow among populations of a
species maintains the integrity of the
species
Lack of gene flow can lead to
speciation

Evolutionary Processes
2) Gene Flow
Population A

Species A

gene
flow

barrier
arises

Population B

time

reproductive
isolation

Species B

Evolutionary Processes
2) Gene Flow
Species A

allopatric speciation =
gene
flow

Species B

geographic isolation
+
reproductive isolation

Evolutionary processes
2) Gene Flow
Species A
(AA)
X

Species B
(BB)

Hybrid AB
(infertile,
cannot cross
with either
parent either)

Evolutionary processes
2) Gene Flow
Hybrid AB

Chromosome
doubling

AABB (now sex


cells can be
produced!)

AA
X
AABB

sex cell A
sex cell AB

AAB (infertile)

Evolutionary Processes
2) Gene Flow
sympatric speciation =
reproductive isolation of
parent species from
hybrid derivatives through
hybridization and
chromosome doubling
without geographic isolation

Evolutionary Processes
3) Genetic Drift
Changes in the gene pool of a small
population due to chance events
Founder effect = one or two
individuals disperse and start a new
population with limited genetic
diversity
Bottleneck = extreme reduction in
population size and therefore genetic
diversity

Conservation Genetics
Involves the use of genetic data
and principles to guide
conservation activities
Genetics should be prominent in
the practice of conservation

Conservation Genetics
1) Rate of evolutionary change in a
population is proportional to the
amount of genetic diversity available
2) Higher genetic diversity is usually
positively related to fitness
3) Global pool of genetic diversity
represents all of the information for
all biological processes (= genetic
library)

Conservation Genetics
Small populations tend to lose
genetic diversity over time!!!

Conservation Genetics
Habitat fragmentation and destruction
now produce and will continue to
produce small, isolated populations
Understanding the genetic status of
species and populations and the
consequences of small population sizes
is vital to conservation, management,
and recovery efforts.

Conservation Genetics
A major goal is to preserve
natural patterns of genetic
diversity to the extent possible
to preserve options for future
evolutionary change.

greater prairie chicken example

Conservation Genetics
Example: Prairie Chickens
35-year study of a remnant population of
prairie chickens in Illinois
In 1962, about 2,000 individuals present;
in 1994, fewer than 50
Fertility and hatching rates declined
significantly, as did genetic diversity
Translocation program established in 1992
to bring in birds from MN, KS and NE

Conservation Genetics
Example: Prairie Chicken
By 1994, increased survival of young
prairie chickens was verified
By 1997, there were significant
increases in mean rates of fertility
and hatching
Once the main population in Illinois
became isolated, it began to lose
viability and without intervention, it
most likely would have disappeared