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J Math Biol. 2010 Sep;61(3):359-75. doi: 10.1007/s00285-009-0304-5. Epub 2009 Nov 3.

Effective population size of a population with stochastically varying size.

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  • 1Division of Mathematics, Kyushu Dental College, Kokurakita-ku, Kitakyushu 803-8580, Japan.


For a Wright-Fisher model with mutation whose population size fluctuates stochastically from generation to generation, a heterozygosity effective population size is defined by means of the equilibrium average heterozygosity of the population. It is shown that this effective population size is equal to the harmonic mean of population size if and only if the stochastic changes of population size are uncorrelated. The effective population size is larger (resp. smaller) than the harmonic mean when the stochastic changes of population size are positively (resp. negatively) autocorrelated. These results and those obtained so far for other stochastic models with fluctuating population size suggest that the property that effective population sizes are always larger than the harmonic mean under the fluctuation of population size holds only for continuous time models such as diffusion and coalescent models, whereas effective population sizes can be equal to or smaller than the harmonic mean for discrete time models.

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