In contrast to the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection, the neutral theory emphasizes the great importance of random genetic drift (due to finite population size) and mutation pressure as the main causes of molecular evolution. In this paper, after a brief review of the neutral theory, recent data strongly supporting the neutral theory are presented. Also discussed are such topics as compensatory neutral evolution and an approach to a unified understanding of molecular and phenotypic evolution. It is concluded that random genetic drift acting on selectively neutral mutants must have played some very important role in organic evolution, including the origin of life and macroevolution.
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