, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 99-105

Demographic influences on mitochondrial DNA lineage survivorship in animal populations

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Probability models of branching processes and computer simulations of these models are used to examine stochastic survivorship of female lineages under a variety of demographic scenarios. A parameter II, defined as the probability of survival of two or more independent lineages over G generations, is monitored as a function of founding size of a population, population size at carrying capacity, and the frequency distributions of surviving progeny.

Stochastic lineage extinction can be very rapid under certain biologically plausible demographic conditions. For stable-sized populations initiated by n females and/or regulated about carrying capacity k=n, it is highly probable that within about 4n generations all descendants will trace their ancestries to a single founder female. For a given mean family size, increased variance decreases lineage survivorship. In expanding populations, however, lineage extinction is dramatically slowed, and the final k value is a far more important determinant of II than is the size of the population at founding. The results are discussed in the context of recent empirical observations of low mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence heterogeneity in humans and expected distributions of asexually transmitted traits among sexually reproducing species.