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Genetics. 1984 Feb;106(2):293-308.

Measuring gene flow among populations having high levels of genetic fragmentation.


We present an analysis of the genetic structures of 22 species of salamanders, with regard to levels of gene flow among populations. We estimate the gene flow parameter, Nm (the product of the effective population number and rate of migration among populations) using two alternative methods described by Wright and Slatkin. For most species, these two methods give approximately congruent estimates of Nm; when estimates differ, the method of Wright produces values slightly larger than those derived by the method of Slatkin. We analyze these results in light of independently derived historical inferences of the fragmentation of populations. This analysis suggests that the Nm values calculated from protein polymorphisms may contain information more relevant to historical patterns of gene exchange than to the current population dynamics; moderately large values of Nm may be calculated for species containing populations known to be no longer exchanging genes. Application of a method for estimating the maximum possible rate of gene exchange among populations indicates that, for most species studied here, gene flow among populations probably is no greater than the mutation rate. We suggest that most plethodontid species cannot be viewed as units whose cohesion is maintained by continuing gene exchange. Furthermore, we suggest that phenotypic uniformity among populations is not easily explained by hypotheses of continual stabilizing selection and propose that future work concentrate upon clarification of the genetic and epigenetic factors conferring self-maintenance or autopoietic properties on living systems.

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