Why Was Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution Important?


Vincent White

The Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution is a concept that has had a significant impact on the field of evolutionary biology. It was first proposed by Japanese biologist Motoo Kimura in the 1960s and challenged the traditional view that natural selection was the driving force behind evolution.

What is the Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution?

According to the Neutral Theory, most genetic mutations that arise in a population are neutral, meaning they do not have any significant effect on an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce. These neutral mutations are then subject to genetic drift, which is a random process that causes some alleles to increase in frequency while others decrease over time.

How does it differ from Traditional Evolutionary Theory?

The traditional view of evolution holds that natural selection, which favors advantageous traits, is the primary force driving evolution. The Neutral Theory challenges this view by suggesting that most genetic changes are not driven by natural selection but instead occur randomly through genetic drift.

Why was it important?

The Neutral Theory has been significant for several reasons. Firstly, it has provided a new framework for understanding molecular evolution and has led to groundbreaking research in fields such as phylogenetics and population genetics.

Secondly, it has challenged long-held assumptions about the importance of natural selection in driving evolutionary change. This has helped to broaden our understanding of how evolution works and has opened up new avenues for research.

Finally, the Neutral Theory has also had practical applications in fields such as medicine and conservation biology. By understanding how neutral mutations arise and spread through populations, researchers can better predict how diseases will spread or how populations will respond to environmental pressures.


In conclusion, the Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution represents a significant shift in our understanding of how evolution works. By providing a new framework for studying molecular evolution and challenging traditional views about natural selection’s importance, it has opened up new avenues for research and practical applications. As such, it remains an essential concept in the field of evolutionary biology today.