Balancing Selection


Wiki source

The heterozygote is resistant to the malarial parasite which kills a large number of people each year. This is an example of balancing selection between the fierce selection against homozygous sickle-cell sufferers, and the selection against the standard HgbA homozygotes by malaria. The heterozygote has a permanent advantage (a higher fitness) wherever malaria exists. Maintenance of the HgbS allele through positive selection is supported by significant evidence that heterozygotes have decreased fitness in regions where malaria is not prevalent. In Surinam, for example, the allele is maintained in the gene pools of descendants of African slaves, as the Surinam suffers from perennial malaria outbreaks. Curacao, however, which also has a significant population of individuals descending from African slaves, lacks the presence of widespread malaria, and therefore also lacks the selective pressure to maintain the HgbS allele. In Curacao, the HgbS allele has decreased in frequency over the past 300 years, and will eventually be lost from the gene pool due to heterozygote disadvantage.