Genetic divergence refers to the process whereby two or even more populations of one ancestral species accumulates mutations or genetic changes that are independent over time, often after populations become isolated reproductively for a certain duration. There are cases where subpopulations that live in ecologically different peripheral environments are likely to show genetic divergence from remaining population. This is commonly seen where a species has a wide population.
Genetic differences that are seen in divergent populations may entail silent mutations that do not have effect on phenotype or ones that cannot result in significant physiological and/or morphological changes. Reproductive isolation is always accompanied by genetic divergence. This can be due to selection that leads to novel adaptations or/and as a result of genetic drift which is the principle mechanism that underlies speciation.
In plant breeding, genetic divergence has been a common and heated topic for debate over the recent decades. It is still a hot topic for discussion. It is important to understand that divergence pool of populations from gene pools of the other populations can be due to genetic drift, selection and mutation. Thus, genetic divergence refers to genetic divergence that occurs in a population and it is not similar to phenotypic divergence which describes the divergence in a population in regards to phenotypic traits.
A gene pool of a population or even a pool of all genes with their different forms as they are found in a group may change over time and this is what comprises a genetic divergence. This happens as the members of a population reproduce some alterations in the genetic code can occur and these alterations will be passed on to the following generations.
If two groups of the same species are separated and they accumulate differences in genes from each other, they are considered to be genetically divergent. Several factors such as ecological differences, passing time and isolation cause divergence between the gene pools. For instance, when two populations are separated they will be prevented from sharing their genetic material. When features in a habitat keep members from mating or meeting, geographical isolation will occur.
When two populations occupy different ecologies or habitats, they may adapt to new environments so that they can meet demands of respective environments. Genes for the successful traits are passed on to generations which make them differ further if they remain in different ecologies for long. Other factors that can cause genetic divergence include time passage and speciation.
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