U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Molecular Ecology (2007) 16 , 1149–1166; doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.03218.x


Bayesian methods have become extremely popular in molecular ecology studies because they allow us to estimate demographic parameters of complex demographic scenarios using genetic data. Articles presenting new methods generally include sensitivity studies that evaluate their performance, but they tend to be limited and need to be followed by a more thorough evaluation. Here we evaluate the performance of a recent method, BAYESASS , which allows the estimation of recent migration rates among populations, as well as the inbreeding coefficient of each local population. We expand the simulation study of the original publication by considering multi-allelic markers and scenarios with varying number of populations. We also investigate the effect of varying migration rates and FST more thoroughly in order to identify the region of parameter space where the method is and is not able to provide accurate estimates of migration rate. Results indicate that if the demographic history of the species being studied fits the assumptions of the inference model, and if genetic differentiation is not too low ( FST ≥ 0.05), then the method can give fairly accurate estimates of migration rates even when they are fairly high (about 0.1). However, when the assumptions of the inference model are violated, accurate estimates are obtained only if migration rates are very low (m = 0.01) and genetic differentiation is high (FST ≥ 0.10). Our results also show that using posterior assignment probabilities as an indication of how much confidence we can place on the assignments is problematical since the posterior probability of assignment can be very high even when the individual assignments are very inaccurate.