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Polymorphism Data Can Reveal the Origin of Species Abundance Statistics

By Yosef E. Maruvka and Nadav M. Shnerb


What is the underlying mechanism behind the fat-tailed statistics observed for species abundance distributions? The two main hypotheses in the field are the adaptive (niche) theories, where species abundance reflects its fitness, and the neutral theory that assumes demographic stochasticity as the main factor determining community structure. Both explanations suggest quite similar species-abundance distributions, but very different histories: niche scenarios assume that a species population in the past was similar to the observed one, while neutral scenarios are characterized by strongly fluctuating populations. Since the genetic variations within a population depend on its abundance in the past, we present here a way to discriminate between the theories using the genetic diversity of noncoding DNA. A statistical test, based on the Fu-Li method, has been developed and enables such a differentiation. We have analyzed the results gathered from individual-based simulation of both types of histories and obtained clear distinction between the Fu-Li statistics of the neutral scenario and that of the niche scenario. Our results suggest that data for 10–50 species, with approximately 30 sequenced individuals for each species, may allow one to distinguish between these two theories

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Publisher: Public Library of Science
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