Admixed populations have been used for inferring migrations, detecting natural selection, and finding disease genes. These applications often use a simple statistical model of admixture rather than a modeling perspective that incorporates a more realistic history of the admixture process. Here, we develop a general model of admixture that mechanistically accounts for complex historical admixture processes. We consider two source populations contributing to the ancestry of a hybrid population, potentially with variable contributions across generations. For a random individual in the hybrid population at a given point in time, we study the fraction of genetic admixture originating from a specific one of the source populations by computing its moments as functions of time and of introgression parameters. We show that very different admixture processes can produce identical mean admixture proportions, but that such processes produce different values for the variance of the admixture proportion. When introgression parameters from each source population are constant over time, the long-term limit of the expectation of the admixture proportion depends only on the ratio of the introgression parameters. The variance of admixture decreases quickly over time after the source populations stop contributing to the hybrid population, but remains substantial when the contributions are ongoing. Our approach will facilitate the understanding of admixture mechanisms, illustrating how the moments of the distribution of admixture proportions can be informative about the historical admixture processes contributing to the genetic diversity of hybrid populations.
- Received July 14, 2011.
- Accepted September 23, 2011.
- Copyright © 2011, The Genetics Society of America