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The neutrality hypothesis in molecular evolution.

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A fundamental question of Darwinian evolution is whether evolution is guided by natural selection or is mainly a neutral, random process.

A huge number of genes sequence from various species has become available in recent years because of the progress in sequencing techniques. Researchers are now in the position to infer detailed phylogeny between species and develop mathematical tool to answer the neutrality question.

Molecular evolution is the stochastic process of substitution of DNA bases. Various terms of this stochastic process are grouped into a substitution matrix.

However, both the phylogeny and the neutrality question necessitate to compute the variance of the substitution number, which depends itself on the substitution matrix.

LIPhy researchers have given a simple and general solution to the problem of the variance. The simple solution shows that available data are not compatible with the strict neutrality hypothesis. However, a slight modification of neutral models of evolution allow them to be compatible with the available data.

These results have been published in the prestigious journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.