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Animal Life
Charles Darwin

Do populations evolve or do individuals evolve?


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April 15, 2013 5:13AM

Evolution is a phenomenon best expressed in terms of either changes between generations or changes in allele frequencies from one generation to the next. It is individual variants that are subject to natural selection, but evolution is most easily measured in terms of allele frequencies in the population gene pool. My answer would therefore be: Both.

Although genetic information DOES change through the course of an individual's life (which is why even the DNA of identical twins grows less and less alike as they age), in general one's genotype is considered predominantly fixed at conception. In that respect, individuals do not evolve, but populations do. While individuals are subject to natural selection, they are not subject to inheritable germ line mutations. That would only happen to their offspring.