The ability of populations to undergo adaptive evolution depends on the presence of quantitative genetic variation for ecologically important traits. Although molecular measures are widely used as surrogates for quantitative genetic variation, there is controversy about the strength of the relationship between the two. To resolve this issue, we carried out a meta-analysis based on 71 datasets. The mean correlation between molecular and quantitative measures of genetic variation was weak (r = 0.217). Furthermore, there was no significant relationship between the two measures for life-history traits (r = −0.11) or for the quantitative measure generally considered as the best indicator of adaptive potential, heritability (r = −0.08). Consequently, molecular measures of genetic diversity have only a very limited ability to predict quantitative genetic variability. When information about a population's short-term evolutionary potential or estimates of local adaptation and population divergence are required, quantitative genetic variation should be measured directly.
Corresponding Editor: D. Roff