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Using Classical Population Genetics Tools with Heterochroneous Data: Time Matters!

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  • Frantz Depaulis
  • Ludovic Orlando
  • Catherine Hänni

Background: New polymorphism datasets from heterochroneous data have arisen thanks to recent advances in experimental and microbial molecular evolution, and the sequencing of ancient DNA (aDNA). However, classical tools for population genetics analyses do not take into account heterochrony between subsets, despite potential bias on neutrality and population structure tests. Here, we characterize the extent of such possible biases using serial coalescent simulations. Methodology/Principal Findings: We first use a coalescent framework to generate datasets assuming no or different levels of heterochrony and contrast most classical population genetic statistics. We show that even weak levels of heterochrony (∼10% of the average depth of a standard population tree) affect the distribution of polymorphism substantially, leading to overestimate the level of polymorphism θ, to star like trees, with an excess of rare mutations and a deficit of linkage disequilibrium, which are the hallmark of e.g. population expansion (possibly after a drastic bottleneck). Substantial departures of the tests are detected in the opposite direction for more heterochroneous and equilibrated datasets, with balanced trees mimicking in particular population contraction, balancing selection, and population differentiation. We therefore introduce simple corrections to classical estimators of polymorphism and of the genetic distance between populations, in order to remove heterochrony-driven bias. Finally, we show that these effects do occur on real aDNA datasets, taking advantage of the currently available sequence data for Cave Bears (Ursus spelaeus), for which large mtDNA haplotypes have been reported over a substantial time period (22-130 thousand years ago (KYA)). Conclusions/Significance: Considering serial sampling changed the conclusion of several tests, indicating that neglecting heterochrony could provide significant support for false past history of populations and inappropriate conservation decisions. We therefore argue for systematically considering heterochroneous models when analyzing heterochroneous samples covering a large time scale.

TidsskriftPLoS ONE
Udgave nummer5
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - 2009
Eksternt udgivetJa

ID: 226116977