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Keywords:

  • beneficial alleles;
  • branching process;
  • fixation time;
  • population subdivision;
  • stepping-stone model;
  • torus model

Abstract

Determining how population subdivision increases the fixation time of an advantageous allele is an important problem in evolutionary genetics as this influences many processes. Here, I lay out a framework for calculating the fixation time of a positively selected allele in a subdivided population, as a function of the number of demes present, the migration rate between them and the manner in which they are connected. Using this framework, it becomes clear that a beneficial allele's fixation time is significantly reduced through migration continuously introducing copies of the allele into a newly colonized subpopulation, increasing its frequency within these demes. The effect that migration has on allele frequency needs to be explicitly taken into account to produce a realistic estimate of fixation time. This behaviour is most prominent when demes are arranged on a two-dimensional torus, in comparison with populations where demes are arranged in a circle. This is because each subpopulation is connected to several neighbours over a torus, so that there are multiple paths that an allele can take in order to fix. As a consequence, some demes experience a greater influx and efflux of migrants than others. Analytical results are found to be very accurate when compared to stochastic simulations, and are generally robust if there are a large number of demes, or if the allele is weakly selected for.