Advances and limits of using population genetics to understand local adaptation

Peter Tiffin, Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


Local adaptation shapes species diversity, can be a stepping stone to ecological speciation, and can facilitate species range expansion. Population genetic analyses, which complement organismal approaches in advancing our understanding of local adaptation, have become widespread in recent years. We focus here on using population genetics to address some key questions in local adaptation: what traits are involved? What environmental variables are the most important? Does local adaptation target the same genes in related species? Do loci responsible for local adaptation exhibit trade-offs across environments? After discussing these questions we highlight important limitations to population genetic analyses including challenges with obtaining high-quality data, deciding which loci are targets of selection, and limits to identifying the genetic basis of local adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)673-680
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Amanda Gorton, members of the laboratory of J.R-I., Gideon Bradburd, and Jesse Lasky for comments and discussion, Jeremy Yoder for the analyses presented in Box 1 , two anonymous reviewers for insightful and constructive comments that improved the manuscript, and National Science Foundation awards (IOS-1238014 and 1237993) for financial support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Clinal adaptation
  • Genomics
  • Selection


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