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Ecological Genetics

  1. Mark C Urban

Published Online: 15 DEC 2008

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021214



How to Cite

Urban, M. C. 2008. Ecological Genetics. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara, California, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2008

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Ecological genetics is the study of how ecologically relevant traits evolve in natural populations. Early research in ecological genetics demonstrated that natural selection often is strong enough to generate rapid adaptive changes in nature. Modern ecological geneticists combine field observations, laboratory experiments and rapidly improving laboratory techniques to further our understanding about how traits evolve in nature and also to identify which genes are evolving. Ecological geneticists increasingly explore how evolutionary dynamics shape ecological properties. As a consequence, ecological genetics is highly relevant to practical questions that lie at the interface of ecology and evolution.

Key concepts

  • Definition of ecological genetics.

  • How ecological genetics differs from similar fields?

  • Why ecologists need to know evolutionary biology and evolutionary biologists need to know ecology?

  • Major explanations of phenotypic variation in natural populations.

  • How experiments can discern among these explanations?

  • The importance of identifying the genes underlying adaptive trait variation.

  • Constraints to adaptive evolution.

  • How gene flow affects the evolution of interconnected populations?

  • How a consideration of multiple adapting species can alter evolutionary predictions?


  • adaptation;
  • evolutionary ecology;
  • metapopulation genetics;
  • gene flow;
  • coevolution