Understanding when species diverged aids in identifying the drivers of speciation, but the end of gene flow between populations can be difficult to ascertain from genetic data. We explore the use of pairwise sequential Markovian coalescent (PSMC) modelling to infer the timing of divergence between species and populations. PSMC plots generated using artificial hybrid genomes show rapid increases in effective population size at the time when the two parent lineages diverge, and this approach has been used previously to infer divergence between human lineages. We show that, even without high coverage or phased input data, PSMC can detect the end of significant gene flow between populations by comparing the PSMC output from artificial hybrids to the output of simulations with known demographic histories. We then apply PSMC to detect divergence times among lineages within two real datasets: great apes and bears within the genus Ursus. Our results confirm most previously proposed divergence times for these lineages, and suggest that gene flow between recently diverged lineages may have been common among bears and great apes, including up to one million years of continued gene flow between chimpanzees and bonobos after the formation of the Congo River.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Dating species divergences using rocks and clocks'.
One contribution of 15 to a discussion meeting issue ‘Dating species divergences using rocks and clocks’.
- Accepted November 19, 2015.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.