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Genetics. 2009 Feb;181(2):615-29. doi: 10.1534/genetics.108.094342. Epub 2008 Dec 1.

Coalescence times and FST under a skewed offspring distribution among individuals in a population.

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  • 1Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


Estimates of gene flow between subpopulations based on F(ST) (or N(ST)) are shown to be confounded by the reproduction parameters of a model of skewed offspring distribution. Genetic evidence of population subdivision can be observed even when gene flow is very high, if the offspring distribution is skewed. A skewed offspring distribution arises when individuals can have very many offspring with some probability. This leads to high probability of identity by descent within subpopulations and results in genetic heterogeneity between subpopulations even when Nm is very large. Thus, we consider a limiting model in which the rates of coalescence and migration can be much higher than for a Wright-Fisher population. We derive the densities of pairwise coalescence times and expressions for F(ST) and other statistics under both the finite island model and a many-demes limit model. The results can explain the observed genetic heterogeneity among subpopulations of certain marine organisms despite substantial gene flow.

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