Sewall Wright's shifting balance theory of evolution posits a mechanism by which a structured population may escape local fitness optima and find a global optimum. We examine a one-locus, two-allele model of underdominance in populations with differing spatial arrangements of demes, both analytically and with Monte Carlo simulations. We find that inclusion of variance in interpatch connectivities can significantly reduce the number of generations required for fixation of the more favorable allele relative to island and stepping-stone models. Although time to fixation increases with migration rate in all cases, the presence of one or two relatively isolated demes may reduce the number of generations by 80% or more. These results suggest that the shifting balance process may operate under less restrictive conditions than those found with a simple spatial arrangement of demes.
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Vol. 60 • No. 3