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Natural selection as the process of accumulating genetic information in adaptive evolution*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 April 2009

Motoo Kimura
National Institute of Genetics, Mishima, Japan
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1. In the course of evolution, complicated organisms have descended from much simpler ones. Since the instructions to form an organism are contained in the nucleus of its fertilized egg, this means that the genetic constitution has become correspondingly more complex in evolution. If we express this complexity in terms of its improbability, defining the amount of genetic information as the negative logarithm of its probability of occurrence by chance, we may say that genetic information is increased in the course of progressive evolution, guided by natural selection of random mutations.

2. It was demonstrated that the rate of accumulation of genetic information in adaptive evolution is directly proportional to the substitutional load, i.e. the decrease of Darwinian fitness brought about by substituting for one gene its allelic form which is more fitted to a new environment. The rate of accumulation of genetic information is given by

where Le is the substitutional load measured in ‘Malthusian parameters’.

3. Using Le = 0·199, a value obtained from the application of the ‘principle of minimum genetic load’ (cf. Kimura, 1960 b), we get

It was estimated that the total amount of genetic information accumulated since the beginning of the Cambrian epoch (500 million years) may be of the order of 108 bits, if evolution has proceeded at the standard rate.

Since the genetic information is transformed into phenotypic information in ontogeny, this figure (108 bits) must represent the amount of information which corresponds to the improved organization of higher animals as compared to their ancestors 500 million years back.

4. Problems involved in storage and transformation of genetic information thus acquired were discussed and it was pointed out that the redundancy of information in the form of repetition in linear sequence of nucleotide pairs within a gene may play an important role in the storage of genetic information.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1961



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