The coalescent in an island model of population subdivision with variation among demes

Theor Popul Biol. 2001 Mar;59(2):133-44. doi: 10.1006/tpbi.2000.1495.


A simple genealogical structure is found for a general finite island model of population subdivision. The model allows for variation in the sizes of demes, in contributions to the migrant pool, and in the fraction of each deme that is replaced by migrants every generation. The ancestry of a sample of non-recombining DNA sequences has a simple structure when the sample size is much smaller than the total number of demes in the population. This allows an expression for the probability distribution of the number of segregating sites in the sample to be derived under the infinite-sites mutation model. It also yields easily computed estimators of the migration parameter for each deme in a multi-deme sample. The genealogical process is such that the lineages ancestral to the sample tend to accumulate in demes with low migration rates and/or which contribute disproportionately to the migrant pool. In addition, common ancestor or coalescent events tend to occur in demes of small size. This provides a framework for understanding the determinants of the effective size of the population, and leads to an expression for the probability that the root of a genealogy occurs in a particular geographic region, or among a particular set of demes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Variation*
  • Geography*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Population Density
  • Population Dynamics