Theoretical and Applied Genetics

, Volume 74, Issue 3, pp 397–401 | Cite as

The relationship between the concepts of genetic diversity and differentiation

  • H. -R. Gregorius


Diversity as a measure of individual variation within a population is widely agreed to reflect the number of different types in the population, taking into account their frequencies. In contrast, differentiation measures variation between two or more populations, demes or subpopulations. As such, it is based on the relative frequencies of types within these subpopulations and, ideally, measures the average distance of subpopulations from their respective lumped remainders. This concept of subpopulation differentiation can be applied consistently to a single population by regarding each individual as a deme (subpopulation) of its own, and it results in a measure of population differentiation δ T which depends on the relative frequencies of the types and the population size. δ T corresponds to several indices of variation frequently applied in population genetics and ecology, and it verifies these indices as measures of differentiation rather than diversity. For any particular frequency distribution of types, the diversity ν is then shown to be the size of a hypothetical population in which each type is represented exactly once, i. e. for which δ T =1. Hence, the diversity of a population is its differentiation effective number of types. This uniquely specifies the link between the two concepts. Moreover, ν again corresponds to known measures of diversity applied in population genetics and ecology. While population differentiation can always be estimated from samples, the diversity of a population, particularly if it is large, may not be. In such cases, it is recommended that population differentiation is estimated and the corresponding sample diversity merely computed. Finally, a solution to the problem of measuring multi-locus diversities is provided.

Key words

Genetic diversity Population differentiation Multi-locus diversity 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Chambers SM, Bayless JW (1983) Systematics, conservation, and the measurement of genetic diversity. In: Schonewald-Cox CM, Chambers ST, MacBride B, Thomas L (eds) Genetics and conservation. Benjamin/Cummings, London Amsterdam; Don Mills, Ontario Sydney Tokyo, pp 349–363Google Scholar
  2. Crow JF, Kimura M (1970) An introduction to population genetics theory. Harper & Row, New York Evanston LondonGoogle Scholar
  3. Gregorius H-R (1978) The concept of genetic diversity and its formal relationship to heterozygosity and genetic distance. Math Biosci 41:253–271Google Scholar
  4. Gregorius H-R, Roberds JH (1986) Measurement of genetical differentiation among subpopulations. Theor Appl Genet 71:826–834Google Scholar
  5. Nei M (1973) Analysis of gene diversity in subdivided populations. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 70:3321–3323Google Scholar
  6. Pielou EC (1969) An Introduction to Mathematical Ecology. Wiley & Sons, New York London Sydney TorontoGoogle Scholar
  7. Rao CR (1982) Diversity and dissimilarity coefficients: a unified approach. Theor Popul Biol 21:24–43Google Scholar
  8. Routledge RD (1979) Diversity indices: which ones are admissible? J Theor Biol 76:503–515Google Scholar
  9. Simpson EH (1949) Measurement of diversity. Nature 163:688Google Scholar
  10. Wright S (1978) Evolution and the genetics of populations, vol 2. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  11. Ziehe M (1982) Quantifizierung genetischer Variation. Forum Genetik-Wald-Forstwirtschaft. Bericht über die 2. Arbeitstagung, Göttingen, S 41–49Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. -R. Gregorius
    • 1
  1. 1.Abteilung für ForstgenetikUniversität GöttingenGöttingenFederal Republic of Germany

Personalised recommendations