Inferring Recent Demography from Isolation by Distance of Long Shared Sequence Blocks
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Genetics 205 (3): 1335-1351 (March 2017)

Recently it has become feasible to detect long blocks of nearly identical sequence shared between pairs of genomes. These identity-by-descent (IBD) blocks are direct traces of recent coalescence events and, as such, contain ample signal to infer recent demography. Here, we examine sharing of such blocks in two-dimensional populations with local migration. Using a diffusion approximation to trace genetic ancestry, we derive analytical formulas for patterns of isolation by distance of IBD blocks, which can also incorporate recent population density changes. We introduce an inference scheme that uses a composite-likelihood approach to fit these formulas. We then extensively evaluate our theory and inference method on a range of scenarios using simulated data. We first validate the diffusion approximation by showing that the theoretical results closely match the simulated block-sharing patterns. We then demonstrate that our inference scheme can accurately and robustly infer dispersal rate and effective density, as well as bounds on recent dynamics of population density. To demonstrate an application, we use our estimation scheme to explore the fit of a diffusion model to Eastern European samples in the Population Reference Sample data set. We show that ancestry diffusing with a rate of Formula: see text during the last centuries, combined with accelerating population growth, can explain the observed exponential decay of block sharing with increasing pairwise sample distance.
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