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Genetics. 2001 Oct; 159(2): 893–905.
PMCID: PMC1461837

Gene genealogies in a metapopulation.


A simple genealogical process is found for samples from a metapopulation, which is a population that is subdivided into a large number of demes, each of which is subject to extinction and recolonization and receives migrants from other demes. As in the migration-only models studied previously, the genealogy of any sample includes two phases: a brief sample-size adjustment followed by a coalescent process that dominates the history. This result will hold for metapopulations that are composed of a large number of demes. It is robust to the details of population structure, as long as the number of possible source demes of migrants and colonists for each deme is large. Analytic predictions about levels of genetic variation are possible, and results for average numbers of pairwise differences within and between demes are given. Further analysis of the expected number of segregating sites in a sample from a single deme illustrates some previously known differences between migration and extinction/recolonization. The ancestral process is also amenable to computer simulation. Simulation results show that migration and extinction/recolonization have very different effects on the site-frequency distribution in a sample from a single deme. Migration can cause a U-shaped site-frequency distribution, which is qualitatively similar to the pattern reported recently for positive selection. Extinction and recolonization, in contrast, can produce a mode in the site-frequency distribution at intermediate frequencies, even in a sample from a single deme.

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Selected References

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