November 10, 2005

Surfing the genetic wave of advance

Molecular Biology and Evolution (advance access)

The Fate of Mutations Surfing on the Wave of a Range Expansion

Seraina Klopfstein et al.


Many species, including humans, have dramatically expanded their range in the past; and such range expansions had certainly an impact on their genetic diversity. For example, mutations arising in populations at the edge of a range expansion can sometimes surf on the wave of advance, and thus reach a larger spatial distribution and a much higher frequency than would be expected in stationary populations. We study here this surfing phenomenon in more details, by performing extensive computer simulations under a two-dimensional stepping-stone model. We find that the probability of survival of a new mutation depends to a large degree on its proximity to the edge of the wave. Demographic factors such as deme size, migration rate and local growth rate also influence the fate of these new mutations. We also find that the final spatial and frequency distribution depends on the local deme size of a subdivided population. This latter result is discussed in the light of human expansions in Europe, as it should allow one to distinguish between mutations having spread with Paleolithic or Neolithic expansions. By favoring the spread of new mutations, a consequence of the surfing phenomenon is to increase the rate of evolution of spatially expanding populations.


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