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A test for deviation from island-model population structure


A. H. Porter. E-mail:


The neutral island model forms the basis for several estimation models that relate patterns of genetic structure to microevolutionary processes. Estimates of gene flow are often based on this model and may be biased when the model's assumptions are violated. An appropriate test for violations is to compare FST scores for individual loci to a null distribution based on the average FST taken over multiple loci. A parametric bootstrap method is described here based on Wright's β-distribution to generate null distributions of FST for each locus. These null distributions account for error introduced by sampling populations, individuals and loci, and also biological sources of error, including variable alleles/locus and inbreeding. Confidence limits can be obtained directly from these distributions. Significant deviations from the island model may be the result of selection, deviations from the island model's migration pattern, nonequilibrium conditions, or other deviations from island-model assumptions. Only strong biases are likely to be detected because of the inherently large sampling variation of FST. Nevertheless, a coefficient, Nb, describing bias in the spread of the β-distribution in units comparable to the gene flow parameter, Nm, can be obtained for each locus. In samples from populations of the butterfly Coenonympha tullia, the loci Idh-1, Mdh-1, Pgi and Pgm showed significantly lower FST than expected.

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