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Gene Migration vs. Genetic Drift: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 2, 2024
Gene Migration refers to movement of genes between populations due to migration. Genetic Drift refers to random changes in gene frequencies within a population over time.

Key Differences

Gene migration, or gene flow, occurs when individuals from one population migrate to another, introducing new genes. In contrast, genetic drift refers to random changes in the frequency of genes in a population, often in small populations. Both processes are mechanisms of evolutionary change but operate differently.
Gene migration increases genetic diversity within a population by introducing new alleles. Genetic drift, however, can decrease genetic diversity as alleles may be lost randomly. While gene migration enriches the genetic makeup, genetic drift can lead to more uniform gene frequencies.
Gene migration often results from the movement of organisms or their gametes between populations. Genetic drift happens independently of migration, often due to chance events like natural disasters. Each process influences population genetics distinctly.
Gene migration can counteract the effects of genetic drift by reintroducing lost alleles. Genetic drift can have more pronounced effects in isolated populations with no gene migration. The interaction of these two processes shapes genetic variation.
In large populations, gene migration tends to have a more significant impact than genetic drift. In small populations, genetic drift can rapidly change allele frequencies, sometimes leading to fixation or loss of alleles. Both processes are key in understanding population genetics.

Comparison Chart


Movement of genes between populations
Random changes in gene frequencies

Impact on Genetic Diversity

Increases diversity by introducing alleles
Can decrease diversity by random allele loss

Typical Causes

Organism movement, breeding across populations
Chance events, smaller population size

Effect on Population Genetics

Enriches genetic makeup, introduces variation
Can lead to uniform gene frequencies

Significance in Population Size

More impactful in large populations
More pronounced in small populations

Gene Migration and Genetic Drift Definitions

Gene Migration

Gene migration can occur through breeding between different populations.
The interbreeding of wolves from different packs led to gene migration across territories.

Genetic Drift

It is a random process, independent of organism fitness.
The changes in gene frequencies were attributed to genetic drift, not natural selection.

Gene Migration

Gene migration is the transfer of genetic material between separate populations.
The introduction of new fish species to the lake resulted in gene migration, altering the genetic makeup of the native population.

Genetic Drift

Genetic drift can lead to the loss or fixation of alleles.
Due to genetic drift, a rare allele in the population eventually became fixed.

Gene Migration

Gene migration counteracts genetic isolation and promotes diversity.
The gene migration from nearby populations helped maintain genetic diversity in the isolated frog population.

Genetic Drift

It occurs more significantly in small populations.
Genetic drift in the isolated community resulted in unique genetic characteristics over generations.

Gene Migration

It plays a role in spreading genetic variations across populations.
Gene migration in plants is facilitated by pollinators traveling between areas.

Genetic Drift

Genetic drift is a mechanism of evolution causing random changes in allele frequencies.
In the small island population, genetic drift led to the predominance of certain traits.

Gene Migration

It involves the movement of alleles due to organism migration.
Birds migrating to different regions contribute to gene migration and genetic diversity.

Genetic Drift

Genetic drift affects genetic variation within populations.
Genetic drift was responsible for the decrease in genetic variation in the captive breeding program.


Can gene migration counter genetic drift?

Yes, by introducing new genetic variations, it can counter the effects of genetic drift.

What causes genetic drift?

It is caused by random chance events, more significant in small populations.

What is gene migration?

Gene migration is the transfer of genetic material between populations through organism movement or breeding.

How does gene migration affect a population?

It increases genetic diversity by introducing new alleles.

Can gene migration occur in plants?

Yes, through processes like pollination and seed dispersal.

Do humans experience gene migration?

Yes, human populations experience gene migration, especially in globally connected societies.

How is genetic drift different from natural selection?

Genetic drift is random and not related to the fitness of organisms, unlike natural selection.

Can genetic drift lead to new species?

Over time, it could contribute to speciation, especially in isolated populations.

What is genetic drift?

Genetic drift refers to random changes in allele frequencies within a population.

Is gene migration common in animal populations?

Yes, especially in migratory species or those with large ranges.

How does genetic drift affect endangered species?

It can reduce genetic diversity, which is crucial for the survival of endangered species.

Is genetic drift always harmful?

Not always, but it can lead to loss of genetic diversity, which may be harmful in some contexts.

Does gene migration require physical movement of organisms?

Yes, typically through the movement of organisms or their reproductive cells.

What role does genetic drift play in evolution?

It is a mechanism of evolutionary change, altering gene frequencies randomly.

What are the effects of genetic drift on allele frequencies?

It can randomly increase or decrease allele frequencies, sometimes leading to fixation or loss.

Does gene migration always increase genetic diversity?

Typically, yes, by introducing new alleles into a population.

How does gene migration impact isolated populations?

It can introduce new genetic material, reducing the effects of isolation.

Can genetic drift be observed in large populations?

It's less significant in large populations but can still occur.

What factors increase gene migration?

Factors like organism mobility, habitat connectivity, and population interbreeding.

Can human activities influence genetic drift?

Yes, activities that reduce population size or isolate populations can enhance the effects of genetic drift.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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