Branching structure of genealogies in spatially growing populations and its implications for population genetics inference.
Spatial models where growth is limited to the population edge have been instrumental to understanding the population dynamics and the clone size distribution in growing cellular populations, such as microbial colonies and avascular tumours. A complete characterization of the coalescence process generated by spatial growth is still lacking, limiting our ability to apply classic population genetics inference to spatially growing populations. Here, we start filling this gap by investigating the statistical properties of the cell lineages generated by the two dimensional Eden model, leveraging their physical analogy with directed polymers. Our analysis provides quantitative estimates for population measurements that can easily be assessed via sequencing, such as the average number of segregating sites and the clone size distribution of a subsample of the population. Our results not only reveal remarkable features of the genealogies generated during growth, but also highlight new properties that can be misinterpreted as signs of selection if non-spatial models are inappropriately applied.