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Genetic Evidence for a Pleistocene Population Explosion

Alan R. Rogers
Evolution
Vol. 49, No. 4 (Aug., 1995), pp. 608-615
DOI: 10.2307/2410314
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2410314
Page Count: 8
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Genetic Evidence for a Pleistocene Population Explosion
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Abstract

Expansions of population size leave characteristic signatures in mitochondrial "mismatch distributions." Consequently, these distributions can inform us about the history of changes in population size. Here, I study a simple model of population history that assumes that, t generations before the present, a population grows (or shrinks) suddenly from female size N0 to female size N1. Although this model is simple, it often provides an accurate description of data generated by complex population histories. I develop statistical methods that estimate θ0 = 2uN0, θ1 = 2uN1, and τ = 2ut (where u is the mutation rate), and place a confidence region around these estimates. These estimators are well behaved, and insensitive to simplifying assumptions. Finally, I apply these methods to published mitochondrial data, and infer that a major expansion of the human population occurred during the late Pleistocene.

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