Table of Contents
Journal of Artificial Evolution and Applications
Volume 2009, Article ID 725049, 13 pages
Research Article

Underdominance, Multiscale Interactions, and Self-Organizing Barriers to Gene Flow

1Department of Computer Science, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, USA
2Department of Biology, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, USA

Received 11 March 2009; Accepted 1 June 2009

Academic Editor: Stephen Smith

Copyright © 2009 Margaret J. Eppstein et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Understanding mechanisms for the evolution of barriers to gene flow within interbreeding populations continues to be a topic of great interest among evolutionary theorists. In this work, simulated evolving diploid populations illustrate how mild underdominance (heterozygote disadvantage) can be easily introduced at multiple loci in interbreeding populations through simultaneous or sequential mutational events at individual loci, by means of directional selection and simple forms of epistasis (non-linear gene-gene interactions). It is then shown how multiscale interactions (within-locus, between-locus, and between-individual) can cause interbreeding populations with multiple underdominant loci to self-organize into clusters of compatible genotypes, in some circumstances resulting in the emergence of reproductively isolated species. If external barriers to gene flow are also present, these can have a stabilizing effect on cluster boundaries and help to maintain underdominant polymorphisms, even when homozygotes have differential fitness. It is concluded that multiscale interactions can potentially help to maintain underdominant polymorphisms and may contribute to speciation events.