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Allele fixation in a dynamic metapopulation: Founder effects vs refuge effects

Abstract : The fixation of mutant alleles has been studied with models assuming various spatial population structures. In these models, the structure of the metapopulation that we call the “landscape” (number, size and connectivity of subpopulations) is often static. However, natural populations are subject to repetitive population size variations, fragmentation and secondary contacts at different spatiotemporal scales due to geological, climatic and ecological processes. In this paper, we examine how such dynamic landscapes can alter mutant fixation probability and time to fixation. We consider three stochastic landscape dynamics: (i) the population is subject to repetitive bottlenecks, (ii) to the repeated alternation of fragmentation and fusion of demes with a constant population carrying capacity, (iii) idem with a variable carrying capacity. We show by deriving a variance, a coalescent and a harmonic mean population effective size, and with simulations that these landscape dynamics generate repetitive founder effects which counteract selection, thereby decreasing the fixation probability of an advantageous mutant but accelerate fixation when it occurs. For models (ii) and (iii), we also highlight an antagonistic “refuge effect” which can strongly delay mutant fixation. The predominance of either founder effects or refuge effects determines the time to fixation and mainly depends on the characteristic time scales of the landscape dynamics.
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R. Aguilée, D. Claessen, A. Lambert. Allele fixation in a dynamic metapopulation: Founder effects vs refuge effects. Theoretical Population Biology, Elsevier, 2009, 76 (2), pp.105-117. ⟨10.1016/j.tpb.2009.05.003⟩. ⟨hal-00447327⟩

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