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DIRECTIONAL SELECTION IN TEMPORALLY REPLICATED STUDIES IS REMARKABLY CONSISTENT

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Abstract

Temporal variation in selection is a fundamental determinant of evolutionary outcomes. A recent paper presented a synthetic analysis of temporal variation in selection in natural populations. The authors concluded that there is substantial variation in the strength and direction of selection over time, but acknowledged that sampling error would result in estimates of selection that were more variable than the true values. We reanalyze their dataset using techniques that account for the necessary effect of sampling error to inflate apparent levels of variation and show that directional selection is remarkably constant over time, both in magnitude and direction. Thus we cannot claim that the available data support the existence of substantial temporal heterogeneity in selection. Nonetheless, we conject that temporal variation in selection could be important, but that there are good reasons why it may not appear in the available data. These new analyses highlight the importance of applying techniques that estimate parameters of the distribution of selection, rather than parameters of the distribution of estimated selection (which will reflect both sampling error and “real” variation in selection); indeed, despite availability of methods for the former, focus on the latter has been common in synthetic reviews of the aspects of selection in nature, and can lead to serious misinterpretations.

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