Populations in statistical genetic modelling and inference

Daniel John Lawson

(Submitted on 4 Jun 2013)

What is a population? This review considers how a population may be defined in terms of understanding the structure of the underlying genetics of the individuals involved. The main approach is to consider statistically identifiable groups of randomly mating individuals, which is well defined in theory for any type of (sexual) organism. We discuss generative models using drift, admixture and spatial structure, and the ancestral recombination graph. These are contrasted with statistical models for inference, principle component analysis and other `non-parametric’ methods. The relationships between these approaches are explored with both simulated and real-data examples. The state-of-the-art practical software tools are discussed and contrasted. We conclude that populations are a useful theoretical construct that can be well defined in theory and often approximately exist in practice.

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