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Gene genealogies in geographically structured populations

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Epperson, Bryan K.

Year Published



Genetics. 152: p. 797-806. (1999)


Population genetics theory has dealt only with the spatial or geographic pattern of degrees of relatedness or genetic similarity separately for each point in time. However, a frequent goal of experimental studies is to infer migration patterns that occurred in the past or over extended periods of time. To fully understand how a present geographic pattern of genetic variation reflects one in the past, it is necessaly to build genealogy models that directly relate the two. For the first time, space-time probabilities of identity by descent and coalescence probabilities are formulated and characterized in this article. Formulations for general migration processes are developed and applied to specific types of systems. The results can be used to determine the level of certainty that genes found in present populations are descended from ancient genes in the same population or nearby populations vs. geographically distant populations. Some parameter combinations result in past populations that are quite distant geographically being essentially as likely to contain ancestors of genes at a given population as the past population located at the same place. This has implications for the geographic point of origin of ancestral, "Eve," genes. The results also form the first model for emerging "space-time" molecular genetic data.


molecular geneic data; genes; populations; genetic variation; geographic patterns; population genetics theory


Epperson, Bryan K. 1999. Gene genealogies in geographically structured populations. Genetics. 152: p. 797-806. (1999)

Last updated on: August 11, 2006