Expected coalescence times and segregating sites in a model of glacial cycles

F.F. Jesus, J.F. Wilkins, V.N. Solferini, J. Wakeley
Published July 31, 2006
Genet. Mol. Res. 5 (3): 466-474 (2006)

About the authors
F.F. Jesus, J.F. Wilkins, V.N. Solferini, J. Wakeley

Corresponding author
F.F. Jesus
E-mail: flaviaf.jesus@gmail.com/ffjesus@unicamp.br


The climatic fluctuations of the Quaternary have influenced the distribution of numerous plant and animal species. Several species suffer population reduction and fragmentation, becoming restricted to refugia during glacial periods and expanding again during interglacials. The reduction in population size may reduce the effective population size, mean coalescence time and genetic variation, whereas an increased subdivision may have the opposite effect. To investigate these two opposing forces, we proposed a model in which a panmictic and a structured phase alternate, corresponding to interglacial and glacial periods. From this model, we derived an expression for the expected coalescence time and number of segregating sites for a pair of genes. We observed that increasing the number of demes or the duration of the structured phases causes an increase in coalescence time and expected levels of genetic variation. We compared numerical results with the ones expected for a panmictic population of constant size, and showed that the mean number of segregating sites can be greater in our model even when population size is much smaller in the structured phases. This points to the importance of population structure in the history of species subject to climatic fluctuations, and helps explain the long gene genealogies observed in several organisms 

Key words: Refugia, Coalescent theory, Population structure, Pairwise differences.


Back To Top