Coalescent process with fluctuating population size and its effective size

Theor Popul Biol. 2004 Feb;65(1):39-48. doi: 10.1016/j.tpb.2003.09.001.


We consider a Wright-Fisher model whose population size is a finite Markov chain. We introduce a sequence of two-dimensional discrete time Markov chains whose components describe the coalescent process and the fluctuation of population size. For the limiting process of the sequence of Markov chains, the relationship of the expectation of coalescence time to the harmonic and the arithmetic means of population sizes is shown, and the Laplace transform of the distribution of coalescence time is calculated. We define the coalescence effective population size (cEPS) by the expectation of coalescence time. We show that cEPS is strictly larger (resp. smaller) than the harmonic (resp. arithmetic) mean. As the population size fluctuates more quickly (resp. slowly), cEPS is closer to the harmonic (resp. arithmetic) mean. For the case of a two-valued Markov chain, we show the explicit expression of cEPS and its dependency on the sample size.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Genetics, Population
  • Humans
  • Markov Chains*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Population Density*