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Keywords:

  • Range expansions;
  • geographical variation;
  • Bufo marinus;
  • genetic drift;
  • colonization;
  • computer simulation

A computer simulation is performed of allele frequency changes resulting from genetic drift at eleven loci during the probable course of colonization of Australia by populations of the Giant Toad, Bufo marinus. The history of twelve populations for which allele frequency data are available is modelled. Account is taken of the likely pattern of relationship among the populations, the effective size of the populations (as indicated by the observed variance of allele frequencies) and the probable isolation of the populations from each other following their separation. In all simulations, allele frequencies at some loci show a significant association with latitude while others do not. In six of ten simulations, there is a significant association between degree of variation at a locus and the presence of a latitudinal cline of allele frequencies. There are also indications of this kind of association in simulations of a uni-directional range expansion. These results demonstrate that such associations, which were also observed in the data from the actual populations, can result from genetic drift during a range expansion, and therefore cannot be taken as evidence of the action of natural selection.