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Mitochondrial DNA Sequence Diversity In Mammals: A Correlation Between The Effective And Census Population Sizes

Jennifer James, Adam Eyre-Walker

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AbstractWhat determines the level of genetic diversity of a species remains one of the enduring problems of population genetics. Since, neutral diversity depends upon the product of the effective population size and mutation rate there is an expectation that diversity should be correlated to measures of census population size. This correlation is often observed for nuclear but not for mitochondrial DNA. Here we revisit the question of whether mitochondrial DNA sequence diversity is correlated to census population size by compiling the largest dataset to date from 639 mammalian species. In a multiple regression we find that nucleotide diversity is significantly correlated to both range size and mass-specific metabolic rate, but not a variety of other factors. We also find that a measure of the effective population size, the ratio of non-synonymous to synonymous diversity, is also significantly negatively correlated to both range and mass-specific metabolic rate. These results together suggest that species with larger ranges have larger effective population sizes. The slope of the relationship between diversity and range is such that doubling the range increases diversity by 12 to 20%, providing one of the first quantifications of the relationship between effective and census population sizes.