Geneticists have argued that the linear decay in within-population genetic diversity with increasing geographic distance from East Africa is best explained by a phylogenetic process of repeated founder effects, growth, and isolation. However, this serial founder effect (SFE) process has not yet been adequately vetted against other evolutionary processes that may also affect geospatial patterns of diversity. Additionally, studies of the SFE process have been largely based on a limited 52-population sample. Here, we assess the effects of founder effect, admixture, and localized gene flow processes on patterns of global and regional diversity using a published data set of 645 autosomal microsatellite genotypes from 5,415 individuals in 248 widespread populations. We used a formal tree-fitting approach to explore the role of founder effects. The approach involved fitting global and regional population trees to extant patterns of gene diversity and then systematically examining the deviations in fit. We also informally tested the SFE process using linear models of gene diversity versus waypoint geographic distances from Africa. We tested the role of localized gene flow using partial Mantel correlograms of gene diversity versus geographic distance controlling for the confounding effects of treelike genetic structure. We corroborate previous findings that global patterns of diversity, both within and between populations, are the product of an out-of-Africa SFE process. Within regions, however, diversity within populations is uncorrelated with geographic distance from Africa. Here, patterns of diversity have been largely shaped by recent interregional admixture and secondary range expansions. Our detailed analyses of the pattern of diversity within and between populations reveal that the signatures of different evolutionary processes dominate at different geographic scales. These findings have important implications for recent publications on the biology of race.
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Vol. 88 • No. 3