Implications of the Hardy Weinberg

The Hardy-Weinberg law has several important implications for the genetic structure of a population. One implication is that a population cannot evolve if it meets the Hardy-Weinberg assumptions, because evolution consists of change in the allelic frequencies of a population. Therefore the Hardy-Weinberg law tells us that reproduction alone will not bring about evolution. Other processes such as natural selection, mutation, migration, or chance in small populations are required for populations to evolve.

A second important implication is that, when a population is in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, the genotypic frequencies are determined by the allelic frequencies. For a locus with two alleles, the frequency of the heterozygote is greatest when allelic frequencies are between .33 and .66 and is at a maximum when allelic frequencies are each .5 (< Figure 23.3). The heterozygote frequency also never exceeds .5. Furthermore, when the frequency of one allele is low, homozygotes for that allele will be rare, and most of the copies of a rare allele will be present in heterozygotes. As you can see from Figure 23.3, when the frequency of allele a is .2, the frequency of the aa homozygote is only .04 (q2), but the frequency of Aa heterozygotes is .32 (2pq); 80% of the a alleles are in heterozygotes.

A third implication of the Hardy-Weinberg law is that a single generation of random mating produces the equilibrium frequencies of p2, 2pq, and q2. The fact that genotypes are in Hardy-Weinberg proportions does not prove that the population is free from natural selection, mutation, and migration. It means only that these forces have not acted since the last time random mating took place.

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