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Molecular Evolution: Neutral Theory

  1. Naoyuki Takahata

Published Online: 21 DEC 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001800.pub2



How to Cite

Takahata, N. 2007. Molecular Evolution: Neutral Theory. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Kanagawa, Japan

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 DEC 2007


The neutral theory is shorthand for the theory that at the molecular level evolutionary changes and polymorphisms are mainly due to selectively neutral mutations; thus, their behaviour and fate are determined by mutation and random drift. The theory explains polymorphism as a transient phase of molecular evolution, and demands a dichotomy between molecular and phenotypic evolution.


  • neutrality;
  • natural selection;
  • population genetics;
  • selective constraint