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Concept: Gene flow


The Asian cycads are mostly allopatric, distributed in small population sizes. Hybridization between allopatric species provides clues in determining the mechanism of species divergence. Horticultural introduction provides the chance of interspecific gene flow between allopatric species. Two allopatrically eastern Asian Cycas sect. Asiorientales species, C. revoluta and C. taitungensis, which are widely distributed in Ryukyus and Fujian Province and endemic to Taiwan, respectively, were planted in eastern Taiwan for horticultural reason. Higher degrees of genetic admixture in cultivated samples than wild populations in both cycad species were detected based on multilocus scans by neutral AFLP markers. Furthermore, bidirectional but asymmetric introgression by horticultural introduction of C. revoluta is evidenced by the reanalyses of species associated loci, which are assumed to be diverged after species divergence. Partial loci introgressed from native cycad to the invaders were also detected at the loci of strong species association. Consistent results tested by all neutral loci, and the species-associated loci, specify the recent introgression from the paradox of sharing of ancestral polymorphisms. Phenomenon of introgression of cultivated cycads implies niche conservation among two geographic-isolated cycads, even though the habitats of the extant wild populations of two species are distinct.

Concepts: Biology, Taiwan, Gene flow, Cycad, Cycas, Cycas revoluta


Adherents to the Jewish faith have resided in numerous geographic locations over the course of three millennia. Progressively more detailed population genetic analysis carried out independently by multiple research groups over the past two decades has revealed a pattern for the population genetic architecture of contemporary Jews descendant from globally dispersed Diaspora communities. This pattern is consistent with a major, but variable component of shared Near East ancestry, together with variable degrees of admixture and introgression from the corresponding host Diaspora populations. By combining analysis of monoallelic markers with recent genome-wide variation analysis of simple tandem repeats, copy number variations, and single-nucleotide polymorphisms at high density, it has been possible to determine the relative contribution of sex-specific migration and introgression to map founder events and to suggest demographic histories corresponding to western and eastern Diaspora migrations, as well as subsequent microevolutionary events. These patterns have been congruous with the inferences of many, but not of all historians using more traditional tools such as archeology, archival records, linguistics, comparative analysis of religious narrative, liturgy and practices. Importantly, the population genetic architecture of Jews helps to explain the observed patterns of health and disease-relevant mutations and phenotypes which continue to be carefully studied and catalogued, and represent an important resource for human medical genetics research. The current review attempts to provide a succinct update of the more recent developments in a historical and human health context.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Evolution, Biology, Population genetics, Jews, Judaism, Gene flow


Alaska caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti) in southwestern Alaska are a poorly understood system, with differing descriptions of their regional population structure, population abundance that has varied greatly through time and instances of the release of domestic reindeer (R. t. tarandus) into their range. Here, we use 21 microsatellites and 297 individuals to investigate the genetic population structure of herds and examine for population bottlenecks. Then, using genetic characteristics of existing reindeer populations, we examine introgression into the wild caribou populations. Caribou of the area are genetically diverse (H E between 0.69 and 0.84), with diversity decreasing along the Alaska Peninsula (AP). Using G ST and Jost’s D, we find extensive structuring among all herds; Migrate-n finds that AP herds share few effective migrants with other herds, with Southern AP and Unimak Island herds having the least. Bayesian clustering techniques are able to resolve all but Denali and Mulchatna caribou herds. Using a conservative assignment threshold of q reindeer ≥ 0.2, 3% of caribou show signs of domestic introgression. Denali herd has the most introgressed individuals (6.9%); those caribou herds that were historically adjacent to smaller reindeer herds, or were historically without adjacent herding, show no admixture. This domestic introgression persists despite the lack of managed reindeer in the region since the 1940s. Our results suggest that despite previous movement data indicating metapopulation-like dispersal in this region, there may be unknown barriers to reproduction by dispersing individuals. Finally, our results support findings that wild and domestic Rangifer can hybridize and show this introgression may persist dozens of generations after domestics are no longer present.

Concepts: Genetics, Deer, Alaska, Reindeer, Gene flow, Porcupine caribou


Large radiocarbon datasets have been analysed statistically to identify, on the one hand, the dynamics and tempo of dispersal processes and, on the other, demographic change. This is particularly true for the spread of farming practices in Neolithic Europe. Here we combine the two approaches and apply them to a new, extensive dataset of 14,535 radiocarbon dates for the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods across the Near East and Europe. The results indicate three distinct demographic regimes: one observed in or around the centre of farming innovation and involving a boost in carrying capacity; a second appearing in regions where Mesolithic populations were well established; and a third corresponding to large-scale migrations into previously essentially unoccupied territories, where the travelling front is readily identified. This spatio-temporal patterning linking demographic change with dispersal dynamics, as displayed in the amplitude of the travelling front, correlates and predicts levels of genetic admixture among European early farmers.

Concepts: Demography, Population, Data set, Europe, Neolithic, Paleolithic, Carrying capacity, Gene flow


The detection of ancient gene flow between human populations is an important issue in population genetics. A common tool for detecting ancient admixture events is the D-statistic. The D-statistic is based on the hypothesis of a genetic relationship that involves four populations, whose correctness is assessed by evaluating specific coincidences of alleles between the groups. When working with high throughput sequencing data calling genotypes accurately is not always possible, therefore the D-statistic currently samples a single base from the reads of one individual per population. This implies ignoring much of the information in the data, an issue especially striking in the case of ancient genomes. We provide a significant improvement to overcome the problems of the D-statistic by considering all reads from multiple individuals in each population. We also apply type-specific error correction to combat the problems of sequencing errors and show a way to correct for introgression from an external population that is not part of the supposed genetic relationship, and how this leads to an estimate of the admixture rate.\ We prove that the D-statistic is approximated by a standard normal. Furthermore we show that our method outperforms the traditional D-statistic in detecting admixtures. The power gain is most pronounced for low/medium sequencing depth (1-10X) and performances are as good as with perfectly called genotypes at a sequencing depth of 2X. We show the reliability of error correction on scenarios with simulated errors and ancient data, and correct for introgression in known scenarios to estimate the admixture rates.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Biology, Normal distribution, World population, Gene flow


Each year, hundreds of thousands of domesticated farmed Atlantic salmon escape into the wild. In Norway, which is the world’s largest commercial producer, many native Atlantic salmon populations have experienced large numbers of escapees on the spawning grounds for the past 15-30 years. In order to study the potential genetic impact, we conducted a spatio-temporal analysis of 3049 fish from 21 populations throughout Norway, sampled in the period 1970-2010. Based upon the analysis of 22 microsatellites, individual admixture, F(ST) and increased allelic richness revealed temporal genetic changes in six of the populations. These changes were highly significant in four of them. For example, 76% and 100% of the fish comprising the contemporary samples for the rivers Vosso and Opo were excluded from their respective historical samples at P=0.001. Based upon several genetic parameters, including simulations, genetic drift was excluded as the primary cause of the observed genetic changes. In the remaining 15 populations, some of which had also been exposed to high numbers of escapees, clear genetic changes were not detected. Significant population genetic structuring was observed among the 21 populations in the historical (global F(ST) =0.038) and contemporary data sets (global F(ST) =0.030), although significantly reduced with time (P=0.008). This reduction was especially distinct when looking at the six populations displaying temporal changes (global F(ST) dropped from 0.058 to 0.039, P=0.006). We draw two main conclusions: 1. The majority of the historical population genetic structure throughout Norway still appears to be retained, suggesting a low to modest overall success of farmed escapees in the wild; 2. Genetic introgression of farmed escapees in native salmon populations has been strongly population-dependent, and it appears to be linked with the density of the native population.

Concepts: Genetics, Evolution, Biology, Salmon, Genetic pollution, Genetic drift, Gene flow


Allopolyploidization often happens recurrently, but the evolutionary significance of its iterative nature is not yet fully understood. Of particular interest are the gene flow dynamics and the mechanisms that allow young sibling polyploids to remain distinct while sharing the same ploidy, heritage and overlapping distribution areas. By using eight highly variable nuclear microsatellites, newly reported here, we investigate the patterns of divergence and gene flow between 386 polyploid and 42 diploid individuals, representing the sibling allopolyploids Dactylorhiza majalis s.s. and D. traunsteineri s.l. and their parents at localities across Europe. We make use in our inference of the distinct distribution ranges of the polyploids, including areas in which they are sympatric (that is, the Alps) or allopatric (for example, Pyrenees with D. majalis only and Britain with D. traunsteineri only). Our results show a phylogeographic signal, but no clear genetic differentiation between the allopolyploids, despite the visible phenotypic divergence between them. The results indicate that gene flow between sibling Dactylorhiza allopolyploids is frequent in sympatry, with potential implications for the genetic patterns across their entire distribution range. Limited interploidal introgression is also evidenced, in particular between D. incarnata and D. traunsteineri. Altogether the allopolyploid genomes appear to be porous for introgression from related diploids and polyploids. We conclude that the observed phenotypic divergence between D. majalis and D. traunsteineri is maintained by strong divergent selection on specific genomic areas with strong penetrance, but which are short enough to remain undetected by genotyping dispersed neutral markers.Heredity advance online publication, 25 November 2015; doi:10.1038/hdy.2015.98.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Genome, Genomics, Speciation, Gene flow


Most species are structured and influenced by processes that either increased or reduced gene flow between populations. However, most population genetic inference methods assume panmixia and reconstruct a history characterized by population size changes. This is potentially problematic as population structure can generate spurious signals of population size change through time. Moreover, when the model assumed for demographic inference is misspecified, genomic data will likely increase the precision of misleading if not meaningless parameters. For instance, if data were generated under an n-island model (characterized by the number of islands and migrants exchanged) inference based on a model of population size change would produce precise estimates of a bottleneck that would be meaningless. In addition, archaeological or climatic events around the bottleneck’s timing might provide a reasonable but potentially misleading scenario. In a context of model uncertainty (panmixia versus structure) genomic data may thus not necessarily lead to improved statistical inference. We consider two haploid genomes and develop a theory that explains why any demographic model with structure will necessarily be interpreted as a series of changes in population size by inference methods ignoring structure. We formalize a parameter, the inverse instantaneous coalescence rate, and show that it is equivalent to a population size only in panmictic models, and is mostly misleading for structured models. We argue that this issue affects all population genetics methods ignoring population structure which may thus infer population size changes that never took place. We apply our approach to human genomic data.Heredity advance online publication, 9 December 2015; doi:10.1038/hdy.2015.104.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Biology, Population genetics, Logic, Subroutine, Inference, Gene flow


Bats are the main pollinators and seed dispersers of Stenocereus thurberi, a xenogamous columnar cactus of northwestern Mexico and a good model to illustrate spatial dynamics of gene flow in long-lived species. Previous studies in this cactus showed differences among populations in the type and abundance of pollinators, and in the timing of flowering and fruiting. In this study we analyzed genetic variability and population differentiation among populations. We used three primers of ISSR to analyze within and among populations genetic variation from eight widely separated populations of S. thurberi in Sonora, Mexico. Sixty-six out of 99 of the ISSR bands (P = 66.7%) were polymorphic. Total heterozygosity for all populations sampled revealed high genetic diversity (Hsp = 0.207, HBT = 0.224). The AMOVA showed that most of the genetic variation was within populations (80.5%). At the species level, estimates of population differentiation, θ = 0.175 and θB = 0.194, indicated moderate gene flow among populations. The absence of a significant correlation between genetic and geographic distances indicated little isolation by geographic distance. The large genetic variation and diversity found in S. thurberi is consistent with its open reproductive system and the high mobility of bats, a major pollinator. However, small changes in number or kind of pollinators and seed dispersal agents, in the directionality of migratory routes, and/or in the timing of flowering and fruiting among populations, can critically affect gene flow dynamics.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Evolution, Biology, Population genetics, Biological dispersal, Genetic diversity, Gene flow


The recent explosion in available genetic data has led to significant advances in understanding the demographic histories of and relationships among human populations. It is still a challenge, however, to infer reliable parameter values for complicated models involving many populations. Here we present MixMapper, an efficient, interactive method for constructing phylogenetic trees including admixture events using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotype data. MixMapper implements a novel two-phase approach to admixture inference using moment statistics, first building an unadmixed scaffold tree and then adding admixed populations by solving systems of equations that express allele frequency divergences in terms of mixture parameters. Importantly, all features of the model, including topology, sources of gene flow, branch lengths, and mixture proportions, are optimized automatically from the data and include estimates of statistical uncertainty. MixMapper also uses a new method to express branch lengths in easily interpretable drift units. We apply MixMapper to recently published data for HGDP individuals genotyped on a SNP array designed especially for use in population genetics studies, obtaining confident results for 30 populations, 20 of them admixed. Notably, we confirm a signal of ancient admixture in European populations-including previously undetected admixture in Sardinians and Basques-involving a proportion of 20-40% ancient northern Eurasian ancestry.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Biology, SNP array, Population genetics, Gene flow