The influence of persistent individual differences and age at maturity on effective population size

Proc Biol Sci. 2011 Nov 7;278(1722):3303-12. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0283. Epub 2011 Mar 24.


Ratios of effective populations size, N(e), to census population size, N, are used as a measure of genetic drift in populations. Several life-history parameters have been shown to affect these ratios, including mating system and age at sexual maturation. Using a stochastic matrix model, we examine how different levels of persistent individual differences in mating success among males may affect N(e)/N, and how this relates to generation time. Individual differences of this type are shown to cause a lower N(e)/N ratio than would be expected when mating is independent among seasons. Examining the way in which age at maturity affects N(e)/N, we find that both the direction and magnitude of the effect depends on the survival rate of juveniles in the population. In particular, when maturation is delayed, lowered juvenile survival causes higher levels of genetic drift. In addition, predicted shifts in N(e)/N with changing age at maturity are shown to be dependent on which of the commonly used definitions of census population size, N, is employed. Our results demonstrate that patterns of mating success, as well as juvenile survival probabilities, have substantial effects on rates of genetic drift.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Computer Simulation
  • Fertility / physiology
  • Genetic Drift
  • Individuality*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Population Density*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Sexual Maturation / physiology*
  • Survival Analysis