Monday, December 03, 2007

How many ancestors? (Part 2)

It appears the statistical physicists got there ahead of me, I quote:

"On the genealogy of a population of biparental individuals

Authors: B. Derrida, S.C. Manrubia, D.H. Zanette

(Submitted on 7 Mar 2000)

Abstract: If one goes backward in time, the number of ancestors of an individual doubles at each generation. This exponential growth very quickly exceeds the population size, when this size is finite. As a consequence, the ancestors of a given individual cannot be all different and most remote ancestors are repeated many times in any genealogical tree.

The statistical properties of these repetitions in genealogical trees of individuals for a panmictic closed population of constant size N can be calculated. We show that the distribution of the repetitions of ancestors reaches a stationary shape after a small number Gc ~ log N of generations in the past, that only about 80% of the ancestral population belongs to the tree (due to coalescence of branches), and that two trees for individuals in the same population become identical after Gc generations have elapsed.

Our analysis is easy to extend to the case of exponentially growing population."

Read the entire paper (PDF, 15 pages) here.

Note: Here's another really interesting paper on the most recent common ancestor to humans living today - here.