Coalescent Theory and Population Genetics

Geographic structure plays an important role in shaping the patterns of genetic diversity in most species. Simply put, offspring tend to be born in geographic proximity to their parents. The combination of limited geographic dispersal and genetic drift leads, over time, to a correlation between genetic similarity and geographic distance. This correlation can be found within species (the phenomenon of isolation by distance), plays a critical role in many speciation events, and has repercussions even at higher taxonomic levels (e.g., the geographic distribution of Marsupials).

Many models of geographically structured populations focus on the case of discrete subdivision into distinct subpopulations, or demes, that are connected through migration. My work has focused primarily on models of isolation by distance, where the population occupies a continuous habitat, but intergenerational dispersal is limited. I am particularly interested in systems where intraspecific competition plays only a minor role in local population density regulation, and in how the shape and degree of habitat heterogeneity interact to generate an “effective dimensionality” of dispersal.

Related Publications:

Jesus, F. F., Wilkins, J. F., Solferini, V. N & Wakeley, J. 2006 Expected coalescence times and segregating sites in a model of repeated glacial cycles.  Genet. Mol. Res.  5, 466-474.

Wilkins, J. F.  2006 Unraveling male and female histories from human genetic data.  Curr. Opin. Genet. Dev. 16, 611-617. [DOI: 10.1016/j.gde.2006.10.004] (Curr Opin Genet Dev 2006 Wilkins)

Wilkins, J. F. & Marlowe, F.  2006 Sex-biased migration in humans: what should we expect from genetic data?  BioEssays 28, 290-300. [DOI: 10.1002/bies.20378] (Bioessays 2006 Wilkins)

Wilkins, J. F. 2004 A Separation-of-Timescales Approach to the Coalescent in a Continuous Population.  Genetics 168, 2227-2244. [DOI: 10.1534/genetics.103.022830] (Genetics 2004 Wilkins)

Wilkins, J. F. & Wakeley, J. 2002 The coalescent in a continuous, finite, linear population.  Genetics 161, 873-888. (Genetics 2002 Wilkins)


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