Estimating admixture proportions with microsatellites: comparison of methods based on simulated data


Jean-Marie Cornuet. E-mail:


Several methods have been developed to estimate the parental contributions in the genetic pool of an admixed population. Some pair-comparisons have been performed on real data but, to date, no systematic comparison of a large number of methods has been attempted. In this study, we performed a simulated data-based comparison of six of the most cited methods in the literature of the last 20 years. Five of these methods use allele frequencies and differ in the statistical treatment of the data. The last one also considers the degree of molecular divergence by estimating the coalescence times. Comparisons are based on the frequency at which the method can be applied, the bias and the mean square error of the estimation, and the frequency at which the true value is within the confidence interval. Eventually, each method was applied to a real data set of variously introgressed honeybee populations. In optimal conditions (highly differentiated parental populations, recent hybridization event), all methods perform equally well. When conditions are not optimal, the methods perform differently, but no method is always better or worse than all others. Some guidelines are given for the choice of the method.