When did the human population size start increasing?

  • Wall J
  • Przeworski M
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We analyze the frequency spectra of all available human nuclear sequence data sets by using a model of constant population size followed by exponential growth. Parameters of growth (more extreme than or) comparable to what has been suggested from mtDNA data can be rejected for 6 out of the 10 largest data sets. When the data are separated into African and non-African samples, a constant size no-growth model can be rejected for 4 out of 8 non-African samples. Long-term growth (i.e., starting 50-100 kya) can be rejected for 2 out of 8 African samples and 5 out of 8 non-African ones. Under more complex demographic models, including a bottleneck or population subdivision, more of the data are compatible with long-term growth. One problem with the data used here is that a subset of loci may reflect the action of natural selection as well as of demography. It remains possible that the correct demographic model is one of constant population size followed by long-term growth but that at several loci the demographic signature has been obscured by balancing or diversifying selection. However, it is not clear that the data at these loci are consistent with a simple model of balancing selection; more complicated selective alternatives cannot be tested unless they are made explicit. An alternative explanation is that population size growth is more recent (e.g., upper Paleolithic) and that some of the loci have experienced recent directional selection. Given the available data, the latter hypothesis seems more likely.

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  • SGR: 0033870688
  • PUI: 30626403
  • SCOPUS: 2-s2.0-0033870688
  • ISBN: 0016-6731
  • ISSN: 00166731
  • PMID: 10924481


  • Jeffrey D. Wall

  • Molly Przeworski

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