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Estimating gene flow in island populations

  • Bruce Rannala (a1) and J. A. Hartigan (a2)


A new method is presented for estimating the rate of gene flow into island populations using the distribution of alleles in samples from a number of islands. The pseudo maximum likelihood estimator (PMLE) that we derive may be applied to species with either discrete or continuous generation times. For Wright's discrete-generation island model, the method provides an estimate of θ = 2Nm where N is the (haploid) population size on each island and m is the fraction of individuals replaced by immigrants in each generation. For a continuous-generation island model, the corresponding parameter φ is the ratio of the immigration rate φ to the individual birth rate λ. Monte Carlo simulations are used to compare the statistical properties of the PMLE with those of two alternative estimatorsof θ derived from Wright's F-statistics. The PMLE is shown to have greatest efficiency (least mean square error) in most cases for a wide range of sample sizes and parameter values. The PMLE is applied to estimate θ using mtDNA haplotypes and allozymes for subdivided populations of African elephants and Channel Island foxes.

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Estimating gene flow in island populations

  • Bruce Rannala (a1) and J. A. Hartigan (a2)


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