Modern African ape populations as genetic and demographic models of the last common ancestor of humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas

Michael I. Jensen-Seaman, Amos S. Deinard, Kenneth K. Kidd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

In order to fully understand human evolutionary history through the use of molecular data, it is essential to include our closest relatives as a comparison. We provide here estimates of nucleotide diversity and effective population size of modern African ape species using data from several independent noncoding nuclear loci, and use these estimates to make predictions about the nature of the ancestral population that eventually gave rise to the living species of African apes, including humans. Chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas possess two to three times more nucleotide diversity than modern humans. We hypothesize that the last common ancestor (LCA) of these species had an effective population size more similar to modern apes than modern humans. In addition, estimated dates for the divergence of the Homo, Pan, and Gorilla lineages suggest that the LCA may have had stronger geographic structuring to its mtDNA than its nuclear DNA, perhaps indicative of strong female philopatry or a dispersal system analogous to gorillas, where females disperse only short distances from their natal group. Synthesizing different classes of data, and the inferences drawn from them, allows us to predict some of the genetic and demographic properties of the LCA of humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-480
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Heredity
Volume92
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

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