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Quantifying and comparing the amount of adaptive evolution among different species is key to understanding how evolution works. Previous studies have shown differences in adaptive evolution across species; however, their specific causes remain elusive. Here, we use improved modeling of weakly deleterious mutations and the demographic history of the outgroup species and ancestral population and estimate that at least 20% of nonsynonymous substitutions between humans and an outgroup species were fixed by positive selection. This estimate is much higher than previous estimates, which did not correct for the sizes of the outgroup species and ancestral population. Next, we jointly estimate the proportion and selection coefficient (p + and s +, respectively) of newly arising beneficial nonsynonymous mutations in humans, mice, and Drosophila melanogaster by examining patterns of polymorphism and divergence. We develop a novel composite likelihood framework to test whether these parameters differ across species. Overall, we reject a model with the same p + and s + of beneficial mutations across species and estimate that humans have a higher p+s + compared with that of D. melanogaster and mice. We show that this result cannot be caused by biased gene conversion or hypermutable CpG sites. We discuss possible biological explanations that could generate the observed differences in the amount of adaptive evolution across species.

Original publication




Journal article


Genome research

Publication Date





110 - 120


Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Animals, Humans, Mice, Drosophila melanogaster, Amino Acids, Evolution, Molecular, Mutation, Polymorphism, Genetic