The number of selectively neutral polymorphic sites in a random sample of genes can be affected by ancestral selectively favored substitutions at linked loci. The degree to which this happens depends on when in the history of the sample the selected substitutions happen, the strength of selection and the amount of crossing over between the sampled locus and the loci at which the selected substitutions occur. This phenomenon is commonly called hitchhiking. Using the coalescent process for a random sample of genes from a selectively neutral locus that is linked to a locus at which selection is taking place, a stochastic, finite population model is developed that describes the steady state effect of hitchhiking on the distribution of the number of selectively neutral polymorphic sites in a random sample. A prediction of the model is that, in regions of low crossing over, strongly selected substitutions in the history of the sample can substantially reduce the number of polymorphic sites in a random sample of genes from that expected under a neutral model.
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