Drawing a direct connection between adaptive evolution at the phenotypic level and underlying genetic factors has long been a major goal of evolutionary biologists, but the genetic characterization of adaptive traits in natural populations is notoriously difficult. The study of evolution in experimental populations offers some help - initial conditions are known and changes can be tracked for extended periods under conditions more controlled than wild populations and more realistic than laboratory or greenhouse experiments. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, researchers studying experimental wheat populations over a 12-year period have demonstrated evolution in a major adaptive trait, flowering time, and parallel changes in underlying genetic variation (Rhoné et al. 2008). Their work suggests that cis-regulatory mutations at a single gene may explain most of the flowering time variation in these populations.
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- Experimental populations
- Flowering time
- Triticum aestivum L.