Mutation

The first requirement for genetic equilibrium is that allele frequencies not change overall because of mutations. Spontaneous mutations occur constantly, at very low rates under normal conditions. But if an organism is exposed to mutagens—mutation-causing agents such as radiation and certain chemicals—mutation rates can increase significantly. Mutations can affect genetic equilibrium by producing totally new alleles for a trait. Many mutations are harmful, although some have no effect. Because natural selection operates only on genes that are expressed, it is very slow to eliminate harmful recessive mutations. In the long run, however, beneficial mutations are a vital part of evolution.

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