The expected numbers of different categories of polymorphic sites are derived for two related models of population history: the isolation model, in which an ancestral population splits into two descendents, and the size-change model, in which a single population undergoes an instantaneous change in size. For the isolation model, the observed numbers of shared, fixed, and exclusive polymorphic sites are used to estimate the relative sizes of the three populations, ancestral plus two descendent, as well as the time of the split. For the size-change model, the numbers of sites segregating at particular frequencies in the sample are used to estimate the relative sizes of the ancestral and descendent populations plus the time the change took place. Parameters are estimated by choosing values that most closely equate expectations with observations. Computer simulations show that current and historical population parameters can be estimated accurately. The methods are applied to DNA data from two species of Drosophila and to some human mitochondrial DNA sequences.

  • Received September 2, 1996.
  • Accepted December 6, 1996.