A genealogical interpretation of linkage disequilibrium.
The degree of association between alleles at different loci, or linkage disequilibrium, is widely used to infer details of evolutionary processes. Here I explore how associations between alleles relate to properties of the underlying genealogy of sequences. Under the neutral, infinite-sites assumption I show that there is a direct correspondence between the covariance in coalescence times at different parts of the genome and the degree of linkage disequilibrium. These covariances can be calculated exactly under the standard neutral model and by Monte Carlo simulation under different demographic models. I show that the effects of population growth, population bottlenecks, and population structure on linkage disequilibrium can be described through their effects on the covariance in coalescence times.