A computer program to simulate multilocus genotype data with spatially autocorrelated allele frequencies

Gilles Guillot, Filipe Santos

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Many models for inference of population genetic parameters are based on the assumption that the data set at hand consists of groups displaying within-group Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium at individual loci and linkage equilibrium between loci. This assumption is commonly violated by the presence of within-group spatial structure arising from nonrandom mating of individuals due to isolation by distance (IBD).

This paper proposes a model and simulation method implemented in a computer program to flexibly simulate data displaying such patterns. The program permits displaying of smooth spatial variations of allele frequencies due to IBD and more abrupt variations due to presence of strong barriers to gene flow. It is useful in assessing performance of various statistical inference methods and in designing spatial sampling schemes. This is shown by a simulation study aimed at assessing the extent to which IBD patterns affect accuracy of cluster inferences performed in models assuming panmixia. The program is also used to study the effects of spatial sampling scheme (e.g. sampling individuals in clumps or uniformly across the spatial domain). The accuracy of such inferences is assessed in terms of number of inferred populations, assignment of individuals to populations and location of borders between populations. The effect of spatial sampling was weak while the effect of IBD may be substantial, leading to the inference of spurious populations, especially when IBD was strong with respect to the size of the sampling domain. The model and program are new and have been embedded in the R package Geneland, for user convenience and compliance with existing data formats.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology Resources
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1112-1120
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Genetic structure
  • Barrier to gene flow
  • Isolation-by-distance
  • Cline
  • Landscape genetics
  • Clustering model


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