Evolutionary forces shape patterns of genetic diversity within populations and contribute to phenotypic variation. In particular, recurrent positive selection has attracted significant interest in both theoretical and empirical studies. However, most existing theoretical models of recurrent positive selection cannot easily incorporate realistic confounding effects such as interference between selected sites, arbitrary selection schemes, and complicated demographic processes. It is possible to quantify the effects of arbitrarily complex evolutionary models by performing forward population genetic simulations, but forward simulations can be computationally prohibitive for large population sizes (>10(5)). A common approach for overcoming these computational limitations is rescaling of the most computationally expensive parameters, especially population size. Here, we show that ad hoc approaches to parameter rescaling under the recurrent hitchhiking model do not always provide sufficiently accurate dynamics, potentially skewing patterns of diversity in simulated DNA sequences. We derive an extension of the recurrent hitchhiking model that is appropriate for strong selection in small population sizes and use it to develop a method for parameter rescaling that provides the best possible computational performance for a given error tolerance. We perform a detailed theoretical analysis of the robustness of rescaling across the parameter space. Finally, we apply our rescaling algorithms to parameters that were previously inferred for Drosophila and discuss practical considerations such as interference between selected sites.
Keywords: forward simulations; recurrent selection; rescaling.