Genomics of ecologically relevant traits
Under directional selection, the pace of evolutionary change depends on the strength of selection, the amount of heritable genetic variation in the traits under selection, and the “trait architecture” - the number of loci and the nature of interactions among genes that give rise to the trait. Nonetheless, we know surprisingly little about adaptation in response to contemporary ecological dynamics. Complexity arises because genetic variation in traits under selection is not sufficient to ensure an evolutionary response. The genetic architecture of the trait can constrain adaptation, especially when selection acts simultaneously on multiple traits that are negatively correlated. Fortunately, technological advances in nucleotide sequencing and bioinformatics greatly facilitate empirical progress. ACE projects aim to identify the genes and genetic changes underlying ecologically relevant traits, and relate genetic diversity at these genes to genome-wide patterns of diversity to infer the role of natural selection in trait evolution in natural systems.