Approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) is useful for parameterizing complex models in population genetics. In this study, ABC was applied to simultaneously estimate parameter values for a model of metapopulation coalescence and test two alternatives to a strict metapopulation model in the well-studied network of Daphnia magna populations in Finland. The models shared four free parameters: the subpopulation genetic diversity (θS), the rate of gene flow among patches (4Nm), the founding population size (N0) and the metapopulation extinction rate (e) but differed in the distribution of extinction rates across habitat patches in the system. The three models had either a constant extinction rate in all populations (strict metapopulation), one population that was protected from local extinction (i.e. a persistent source), or habitat-specific extinction rates drawn from a distribution with specified mean and variance. Our model selection analysis favoured the model including a persistent source population over the two alternative models. Of the closest 750 000 data sets in Euclidean space, 78% were simulated under the persistent source model (estimated posterior probability = 0.769). This fraction increased to more than 85% when only the closest 150 000 data sets were considered (estimated posterior probability = 0.774). Approximate Bayesian computation was then used to estimate parameter values that might produce the observed set of summary statistics. Our analysis provided posterior distributions for e that included the point estimate obtained from previous data from the Finnish D. magna metapopulation. Our results support the use of ABC and population genetic data for testing the strict metapopulation model and parameterizing complex models of demography.