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Does Diploidy Increase the Rate of Adaptation?

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Explanations of the evolution of diploidy have focused on the advantages gained from masking deleterious alleles. Recent theory has shown, however, that masking does not always provide an advantage to diploidy and would never favor diploidy in predominantly asexual organisms. We explore a neglected alternative theory which posits that, by doubling the genome size, diploids double the rate at which favorable mutations arise. Consequently, the rate of adaptation in diploids is presumed to be faster than in haploids. The rate of adaptation, however, depends not only on the rate of appearance of new favorable mutations but also on the rate at which these mutations are incorporated (which depends on the population size and on the dominance of favorable mutations). We show that, in both asexuals and sexuals, doubling the mutation rate via diploidy often does not accelerate the rate of adaptation. Indeed, under many conditions, diploidy slows adaptation.

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