Human populations have a complex history of introgression and of changing population size. Human genetic variation has been affected by both these processes, so inference of past population size depends upon the pattern of gene flow and introgression among past populations. One remarkable aspect of human population history as inferred from genetics is a consistent “wave” of larger effective population sizes, found in both African and non-African populations, that appears to reflect events prior to the last 100,000 years. I carried out a series of simulations to investigate how introgression and gene flow from genetically divergent ancestral populations affect the inference of ancestral effective population size. Both introgression and gene flow from an extinct, genetically divergent population consistently produce a wave in the history of inferred effective population size. The time and amplitude of the wave reflect the time of origin of the genetically divergent ancestral populations and the strength of introgression or gene flow. These results demonstrate that even small fractions of introgression or gene flow from ancient populations may have visible effects on the inference of effective population size.
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