A fundamental goal of population genetics is to understand why levels of genetic diversity vary among species and populations. Under the assumptions of the neutral model of molecular evolution, the amount of variation present in a population should be directly proportional to the size of the population. However, this prediction does not tally with real-life observations: levels of genetic diversity are found to be substantially more uniform, even among species with widely differing population sizes, than expected. Because natural selection—which removes genetically linked neutral variation—is more efficient in larger populations, selection on novel mutations offers a potential reconciliation of this paradox. In this work, we align and jointly analyze whole genome genetic variation data from a wide variety of species. Using this dataset and population genetic models of the impact of selection on neutral variation, we test the prediction that selection will disproportionally remove neutral variation in species with large population sizes. We show that genomic signature of natural selection is pervasive across most species, and that the amount of linked neutral variation removed by selection correlates with proxies for population size. We propose that pervasive natural selection constrains neutral diversity and provides an explanation for why neutral diversity does not scale as expected with population size.
Corbett-Detig RB, Hartl DL, Sackton TB (2015) Natural Selection Constrains Neutral Diversity across A Wide Range of Species. PLoS Biol 13(4): e1002112. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002112 ;