Population demographic history may be learned from contemporary genetic variation data. Methods based on aggregating the statistics of many single loci into an allele frequency spectrum (AFS) have proven powerful, but such methods ignore potentially informative patterns of linkage disequilibrium (LD) between neighboring loci. To leverage such patterns, we developed a composite-likelihood framework for inferring demographic history from aggregated statistics of pairs of loci. Using this framework, we show that two-locus statistics are more sensitive to demographic history than single-locus statistics such as the AFS. In particular, two-locus statistics escape the notorious confounding of depth and duration of a bottleneck, and they provide a means to estimate effective population size based on the recombination rather than mutation rate. We applied our approach to a Zambian population of Drosophila melanogaster. Notably, using both single- and two-locus statistics, we inferred a substantially lower ancestral effective population size than previous works and did not infer a bottleneck history. Together, our results demonstrate the broad potential for two-locus statistics to enable powerful population genetic inference.
- Received February 14, 2017.
- Accepted April 7, 2017.
- Copyright © 2017, The Genetics Society of America