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Mutational robustness describes the extent to which an organism's phenotype remains constant in spite of mutation. Selection can directly induce the evolution of mutational robustness only when mutation rates are high and population sizes are large. However, there may be considerable indirect selection for mutational robustness and a correlated response to selection for robustness against non-genetic changes (i.e. changes in the environment). The conditions under which selection could act to directly increase mutational robustness are extremely restrictive, and for this reason, such selection is thought to be limited to only a few viruses and other microbes having large population sizes. Mutational robustness is thought to be one driver for theoretical viral quasispecies formation.


  • Wagner, Andreas. 2005. Robustness and Evolvability in Living Systems (Princeton Studies in Complexity). Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-12240-7
The development of phenotype
Key concepts: Genotype-phenotype distinction | Norms of reaction | Gene-environment interaction | Heritability | Quantitative genetics
Genetic architecture: Dominance relationship | Epistasis | Polygenic inheritance | Pleiotropy | Plasticity | Canalisation | Fitness landscape
Non-genetic influences: Epigenetic inheritance | Epigenetics | Maternal effect | dual inheritance theory
Developmental architecture: Segmentation | Modularity
Evolution of genetic systems: Evolvability | Mutational robustness | Evolution of sex
Influential figures: C. H. Waddington | Richard Lewontin
Debates: Nature versus nurture
List of evolutionary biology topics
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