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Convergence to the coalescent in populations of substantially varying size

  • Peter Jagers (a1) and Serik Sagitov (a1)


Kingman's classical theory of the coalescent uncovered the basic pattern of genealogical trees of random samples of individuals in large but time-constant populations. Time is viewed as being discrete and is identified with non-overlapping generations. Reproduction can be very generally taken as exchangeable (meaning that the labelling of individuals in each generation carries no significance). Recent generalisations have dealt with population sizes exhibiting given deterministic or (minor) random fluctuations. We consider population sizes which constitute a stationary Markov chain, explicitly allowing large fluctuations in short times. Convergence of the genealogical tree, as population size tends to infinity, towards the (time-scaled) coalescent is proved under minimal conditions. As a result, we obtain a formula for effective population size, generalising the well-known harmonic mean expression for effective size.


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Postal address: Department of Mathematical Statistics, Chalmers University of Technology and Göteborg University, SE-412 96 Göteborg, Sweden.
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