Completing forwards simulations#

The msprime simulator generates tree sequences using the backwards in time coalescent model. But it is also possible to output tree sequences from forwards-time simulators such as SLiM and fwdpy11 (see the Building a forward simulator tutorial). There are many advantages to using forward-time simulators, but they are usually quite slow compared to similar coalescent simulations. In this section we show how to combine the best of both approaches by simulating the recent past using a forwards-time simulator and then complete the simulation of the ancient past using msprime. (We sometimes refer to this “recapitation”, as we can think of it as adding a “head” onto a tree sequence.)

First, we define a simple Wright-Fisher simulator which returns a tree sequence with the properties that we require (please see the msprime documentation for a formal description of these properties):

import tskit
import msprime
import random
import numpy as np

def wright_fisher(N, T, L=100, random_seed=None):
    Simulate a Wright-Fisher population of N haploid individuals with L discrete
    loci for T generations, with one recombination per transmission event
    Based on Algorithm W from
    tables = tskit.TableCollection(L)
    tables.time_units = "generations"
    tables.populations.metadata_schema = tskit.MetadataSchema.permissive_json()
    P = np.arange(N, dtype=int)
    for _ in range(N):
        tables.nodes.add_row(time=T, population=0)
    t = T
    while t > 0:
        t -= 1
        Pp = P.copy()
        for j in range(N):
            u = tables.nodes.add_row(time=t, population=0)
            Pp[j] = u
            a = random.randint(0, N - 1)
            b = random.randint(0, N - 1)
            x = random.randint(1, L - 1)
            tables.edges.add_row(0, x, P[a], u)
            tables.edges.add_row(x, L, P[b], u)
        P = Pp

    # Simplify with respect to nodes at time zero (the current generation), using
    # `keep_input_roots`` to keep the ancient nodes from the initial population.
    tables.simplify(np.where(tables.nodes.time == 0)[0], keep_input_roots=True)
    return tables.tree_sequence()

We then run a tiny forward simulation of 10 two-locus individuals for 5 generations, and print out the resulting trees:

num_loci = 2
N = 10
wf_ts = wright_fisher(N, 5, L=num_loci, random_seed=3)

Because our Wright Fisher simulation ran for only 5 generations, there has not been enough time for the trees to fully coalesce. Therefore, instead of having one root, the trees have several — the first tree has 2 and the second 4. Nodes 16, 17, 18, and 19 in this simulation represent the members of the initial population of the simulation that have genetic descendants at the end of the simulation. These unary branches joining samples and coalesced subtrees to the nodes in the initial generation are essential as they allow use to correctly assemble the various fragments of ancestral material into chromosomes when creating the initial conditions for the coalescent simulation. (Please see the msprime documentation for for more details on the required properties of input tree sequences.)

The process of completing this tree sequence using a coalescent simulation begins by first examining the root segments on the input trees. We get the following segments:

    [(0, 2, 17), (0, 2, 18), (1, 2, 19), (1, 2, 16)]

where each segment is a (left, right, node) tuple. As nodes 17 and 18 are present in both trees, they have segments spanning both loci. Nodes 16 and 19 are present only in the second tree, and so they have ancestral segments only for the second locus. Note that this means that we do not simulate the ancestry of the entire initial generation of the simulation, but rather the exact minimum that we need in order to complete the ancestry of the current generation. For instance, root 19 has not coalesced over the interval from 1.0 to 2.0, while root 17 has not coalesced over the entire segment from 0.0 to 2.0.

We run the coalescent simulation to complete this tree sequence using the initial_state argument to msprime.sim_ancestry(). Because we have simulated a two locus system with a recombination rate of 1 / num_loci per generation in the Wright-Fisher model, we want to use the same system in the coalescent simulation. Note that we set the ploidy argument to 1 here because our forward time simulation is haploid and msprime uses a diploid time scale by default.

coalesced_ts = msprime.sim_ancestry(
    recombination_rate=1 / num_loci, 

The trees have fully coalesced and we’ve successfully combined a forwards-time Wright-Fisher simulation with a coalescent simulation: hooray!

Why keep input roots (i.e., the initial generation)?#

We can now see why it is essential that we take care to preserve the roots of all trees when we simplified the tree sequence (by passing keep_input_roots=True), so that the initial generation can be properly used as the initial_state argument to msprime.sim_ancestry(). In the example above, if node 18 was not in the tree sequence, we would not know that the segment that node 10 inherits from on [0.0, 1.0) and the segment that node 2 inherits from on [1.0, 2.0) both exist in the same node.

Note that although the portions of initial generation (above, nodes 16, 17, 18, and 19) must be in the tree sequence, they do not have to be samples, and their entire genomes need not be represented (e.g., node 19 is only present on [1.0, 2.0)). This allows msprime.sim_ancestry() to not simulate the entire history of the first generation, but only what is necessary to complete any uncoalesced trees. Happily, this is easily done with the keep_input_roots argument to simplify(). Note that this argument would need to be provided to the periodic simplify() steps which are essential in practical simulation, but that we skipped in the toy simulator above.

In fact, this is precisely how tree sequence recording in SLiM, works, and pyslim.recapitate() provides a front-end to the method presented here.

Topology gotchas#

The trees that we output from this combined forwards and backwards simulation process have some slightly odd properties that are important to be aware of. In the example above, we can see that the old roots are still present in both trees, even through they have only one child and are clearly redundant. This is because the tables of initial_state have been retained, without modification, at the top of the tables of the output tree sequence. While this redundancy is not important for many tasks, there are some cases where they may cause problems:

  1. When computing statistics on the number of nodes, edges or trees in a tree sequence, having these unary edges and redundant nodes will slightly inflate the values.

  2. If you are computing the overall tree “height” by taking the time of the root node, you may overestimate the height because there is a unary edge above the “real” root (this would happen if one of the trees had already coalesced in the forwards-time simulation).

For these reasons it may be better to remove this redundancy from your computed tree sequence which is easily done using the simplify method:

final_ts = coalesced_ts.simplify()

This final tree sequence is topologically identical to the original tree sequence, but has the redundant nodes and edges removed. Note also that the node IDs have been reassigned so that the samples are 0 to 9 — if you need the IDs from the original tree sequence, please set map_nodes=True when calling simplify to get a mapping between the two sets of IDs.