Genetic drift within a protected polymorphism: enigmatic variation in color-morph frequencies in the candy-stripe spider, Enoplognatha ovata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • G.S. Oxford


Publication details

JournalEvolution: international journal of organic evolution
DatePublished - Nov 2005
Issue number10
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)2170-2184
Original languageEnglish


The candy-stripe spider, Enoplognatha ovata, exhibits a striking color polymorphism comprising three morphs. A number of lines of evidence strongly suggest that this polymorphism is maintained by natural selection: its presence in a sister species, E. latimana; the physical nature of the variation; the virtual lack of monomorphic populations; the highly consistent rank-order of morphs within populations; and the presence of large-scale clines associated with climatic variables. However, the absence of selection is equally strongly suggested by very local surveys of morph frequencies over space and time, perturbation experiments, and a variance in morph frequency between populations that is virtually independent of spatial scale. In addition, local spatial patterns in one study site (Nidderdale, Yorkshire, England) have been explained in terms of intermittent drift over half a century ago, a hypothesis supported here by the distributions of four other genetic markers (two allozyme and two visible polymorphisms). A heuristic model is suggested that reconciles these apparently contradictory messages regarding the importance of drift and selection in this system. It is proposed that when allele frequencies of the color morph redimita lie between approximately 0.05 and 0.3, the ¿q on q plot is very shallow, so that within this region, where the majority of populations lie, selection is weak and drift is the major force determining local morph frequencies. However, outside this range of frequencies, powerful selection acts to protect the polymorphism. This model may apply to polymorphisms in other species and explain why evidence of selection in natural populations is often elusive.

    Research areas

  • Allozyme variation, Enoplognatha latimana, intermittent drift, intermittent selection, scale-independent variation

Discover related content

Find related publications, people, projects, datasets and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations