Inference of population subdivision from the VNTR distributions of New Zealanders

  • Andrew G. Clark
  • J. Frances Hamilton
  • Geoffrey K. Chambers
Part of the Contemporary Issues in Genetics and Evolution book series (CIGE, volume 4)


A population sample from people of diverse ethnic origins living in New Zealand serves as a database to test methods for inference of population subdivision. The initial null hypothesis, that the population sample is homogeneous across ethnic groups, is easily rejected by likelihood ratio tests. Beyond this, methods for quantifying subdivision can be based on the probability of drawing alleles identical by descent (F ST ),probabilities of matching multiple locus genotypes, and occurrence of unique alleles. Population genetic theory makes quantitative predictions about the relation between F ST , population sizes, and rates of migration and mutation. Some VNTR loci have mutation rates of 10−2 per generation, but, contrary to theory, we find no consistent association between the degree of population subdivision and mutation rate. Quantification of population substructure also allows us to relate the magnitudes of genetic distances between ethnic groups in New Zealand to the colonization history of the country. The data suggests that the closest relatives to the Maori are Polynesians, and that no severe genetic bottleneck occurred when the Maori colonized New Zealand. One of the central points of contention regarding the application of VNTR loci in forensics is the appropriate means for estimating match probabilities. Simulations were performed to test the merits of the product rule in the face of subpopulation heterogeneity. Population heterogeneity results in large differences in estimates of multilocus genotype frequencies depending on which subpopulation is used for reference allele frequencies, but, of greater importance for forensic purposes, no five locus genotype had an expected frequency greater than 10−6. Although this implies that a match with an innocent individual is unlikely, in a large urban area such chance matches are going to occur.

Key words

population subdivision VNTR Maori Polynesian 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew G. Clark
    • 1
  • J. Frances Hamilton
    • 2
  • Geoffrey K. Chambers
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Environmental Science and Research LimitedWellington Science CentreLower HuttNew Zealand
  3. 3.Biochemistry and Genetics Research Unit, School of Biological SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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