Selecting among Alternative Scenarios of Human Evolution by Simulated Genetic Gradients

Genes (Basel). 2018 Oct 18;9(10):506. doi: 10.3390/genes9100506.


Selecting among alternative scenarios of human evolution is nowadays a common methodology to investigate the history of our species. This strategy is usually based on computer simulations of genetic data under different evolutionary scenarios, followed by a fitting of the simulated data with the real data. A recent trend in the investigation of ancestral evolutionary processes of modern humans is the application of genetic gradients as a measure of fitting, since evolutionary processes such as range expansions, range contractions, and population admixture (among others) can lead to different genetic gradients. In addition, this strategy allows the analysis of the genetic causes of the observed genetic gradients. Here, we review recent findings on the selection among alternative scenarios of human evolution based on simulated genetic gradients, including pros and cons. First, we describe common methodologies to simulate genetic gradients and apply them to select among alternative scenarios of human evolution. Next, we review previous studies on the influence of range expansions, population admixture, last glacial period, and migration with long-distance dispersal on genetic gradients for some regions of the world. Finally, we discuss this analytical approach, including technical limitations, required improvements, and advice. Although here we focus on human evolution, this approach could be extended to study other species.

Keywords: allele surfing; human evolution; human genetic gradients; last glacial maximum; long-distance dispersal; model selection; range contraction; range expansion.

Publication types

  • Review