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EVOLUTION AND ECOLOGY:

ESTIMATING THE TOTAL GENETIC DIVERSTIY OF A SPATIAL FIELD POPULATION FROM A SAMPLE AND IMPLICATIONS OF ITS DEPENDENCE ON HABITAT AREA

E. M. Rauch and Y. Bar-Yam, PNAS 102, 9826-9829, 2005.

Press Release

Link to paper

Abstract

The total genetic diversity of a species is a key factor in its persistence and conservation. Because realistic sample sizes are far smaller than the total population, it is impractical to exhaustively characterize diversity of most populations. Here, we demonstrate the possibility of calculating the genetic diversity of a spatial population from a sample using genealogical models. We trace the history of a population by simulating the locations of the ancestors of a particular sample of the population backwards in time. We use this method to estimate the genetic diversity of the global population of Pseudomonas bacteria. The same results are obtained whether using a global sample or a subsample restricted to a particular geographic region (California). The results are also validated by comparing additional predictions of the model to the data. Furthermore, we use these results to show that the level of genetic diversity in a population depends strongly on the size of its habitat, much more strongly than does biodiversity as measured by the number of species. The strong dependence of diversity on habitat area has significant implications for conservation strategies.

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