Molecular Tools for Population Genetics

Molecular Tools for Population Genetics

A.J. Gharrett

Molecular Tools for Population GeneticsThis is part of What Does Genetics Have to Do with It? 3rd edn
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In this chapter, we examine the nature of several of the more commonly used kinds of genetic variation, and how that variation is detected in the laboratory. This chapter is important because it describes several of the methods that generate genetic data for Mendelian and population genetics analyses (Chapter 1. Even Fish Obey Mendel's Laws, and Chapter 2. How Genes Vary in Fish Populations). One of the concepts that is taken for granted by population geneticists, but is not immediately obvious to others, is that the traits we score are merely tools used to learn about the variation in a population. They serve as indicators of the processes that have been going on, but their actual function is usually immaterial. In addition, from the perspective of the discipline, the gene pool (population) is the focus. We generally do not care about individuals, except as vehicles for the alleles in the gene pool. We usually look for loci that are representative of all the loci. Then we use their alleles as indicators to provide a window to the patterns of variation within and among populations or markers that, in some combination, reflect the results of the processes or track populations. For most basic questions, we are content with a set of anonymous loci; and in our initial surveys of a species, we treat each locus as anonymous, even if we know its function. Only in subsequent and more sophisticated studies might we ask questions about the role of particular loci. Those special loci often draw our attention because the way they are distributed among populations differs from the distributions of other loci and suggests that they may teach us something that the other loci cannot.

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