Evolutionary biology has struggled to explain the coexistence of two basic observations: Genetic variation is found in almost all traits in the presence of strong natural and sexual selection in natural populations. These two observations are in direct conflict as such selection should deplete genetic variation. Furthermore, the presence of genetic variation in a trait, and selection acting on that trait, is often not sufficient for the trait to respond to selection. Here, we bring together geometric perspectives on mutation, selection, and genetic variation and show how the perceived incompatibility between these two observations is a consequence of taking a trait-by-trait approach to the multivariate problem of genetic variation and selection. We conclude that the simultaneous presence of widespead genetic variation in, and strong selection on, individual traits indicates that substantial multivariate genetic constraints are likely to be present in natural populations.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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