Mendel's Accountant: a biologically realistic forward-time population genetics program

J. Sanford, J. Baumgardner, W. Brewer, P. Gibson, W. ReMine

Abstract


Mendel's Accountant (hereafter referred to as Mendel) is a user-friendly
biologically realistic simulation program for investigating the processes of
mutation and selection in sexually reproducing diploid populations. Mendel
represents an advance over previous forward-time programs in that it
incorporates several new features that enhance biological realism including:
(a) variable mutation effect and (b) environmental variance that affects
phenotype. In Mendel, as in nature, mutations have a continuous range of
effect from lethal to beneficial, and may vary in expression from fully
dominant to fully recessive. Mendel allows mutational effects to be combined
in either a multiplicative or additive manner to determine overall genotypic
fitness and provides the option of either truncation or probability selection.
Environmental variance is specified via a heritability parameter and a
non-scaling noise standard deviation. Mendel is computationally efficient,
so many problems of interest can be run on ordinary personal computers.
Parallelized using MPI, Mendel readily handles large population size and
population substructure on cluster computers. We report a series of validation
experiments which show consistently that Mendel results conform to theoretical
predictions. Its graphical user interface is designed to make problem
specification intuitive and simple, and it provides a variety of visual
representations in the program output. The program is a versatile research
tool and is useful also as an interactive teaching resource.

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