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Mol Ecol. 2002 Feb;11(2):155-65.

The estimation of population differentiation with microsatellite markers.

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  • 1Zoologisches Institut, Universit├Ąt Bern, CH-3032 Hinterkappelen-Bern, Switzerland.


Microsatellite markers are routinely used to investigate the genetic structuring of natural populations. The knowledge of how genetic variation is partitioned among populations may have important implications not only in evolutionary biology and ecology, but also in conservation biology. Hence, reliable estimates of population differentiation are crucial to understand the connectivity among populations and represent important tools to develop conservation strategies. The estimation of differentiation is c from Wright's FST and/or Slatkin's RST, an FST -analogue assuming a stepwise mutation model. Both these statistics have their drawbacks. Furthermore, there is no clear consensus over their relative accuracy. In this review, we first discuss the consequences of different temporal and spatial sampling strategies on differentiation estimation. Then, we move to statistical problems directly associated with the estimation of population structuring itself, with particular emphasis on the effects of high mutation rates and mutation patterns of microsatellite loci. Finally, we discuss the biological interpretation of population structuring estimates.

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