• spatial autocorrelation;
  • microevolution;
  • simulation;
  • migration -selection drift

To explore the extent to which microevolutionary inference can be made using spatial autocorrelation analysis of gene frequency surfaces, we simulated sets of surfaces for nine evolutionary scenarios, and subjected spatially-based summary statistics of these to linear discriminant analysis. Scenarios varied the amounts of dispersion, selection, migration, and deme sizes, and included: panmixia, drift, intrusion, and stepping-stone models with 0–2 migrations, 0–2 selection gradients, and migration plus selection. To discover how weak evolutionary forces could be and still allow discrimination, each scenario had both a strong and a weak configuration. Discriminant rules were calculated using one collection of data (the training set) consisting of 250 sets of 15 surfaces for each of the nine scenarios. Misclassification rates were verified against a second, entirely new set of data (the test set) equal in size. Test set misclassification rates for the 20 best discriminating variables ranged from 39.3% (weak) to 3.6% (strong), far lower than the expected rate of 88.9% absent any discriminating ability. Misclassification was highest when discriminating the number of migrational events or the presence or number of selection events. Discrimination of drift and panmixia from the other scenarios was perfect. A subsequent subjective analysis of a subset of the data by one of us yielded comparable, although somewhat higher, misclassification rates. Judging by these results, spatial autocorrelation variables describing sets of gene frequency surfaces permit some microevolutionary inferences.