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Mol Biol Evol. 2004 May;21(5):799-808. Epub 2004 Feb 12.

Evidence for a complex demographic history of chimpanzees.

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Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.


To characterize patterns of genomic variation in central chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and gain insight into their evolution, we sequenced nine unlinked, intergenic regions, representing a total of 19,000 base pairs, in 14 individuals. When these DNA sequences are compared with homologous sequences previously collected in humans and in western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus), nucleotide diversity is higher in central chimpanzees than in western chimpanzees or in humans. Consistent with a larger effective population size of central chimpanzees, levels of linkage disequilibrium are lower than in humans. Patterns of linkage disequilibrium further suggest that homologous gene conversion may be an important contributor to genetic exchange at short distances, in agreement with a previous study of the same DNA sequences in humans. In central chimpanzees, but not in western chimpanzees, the allele frequency spectrum is significantly skewed towards rare alleles, pointing to population size changes or fine-scale population structure. Strikingly, the extent of genetic differentiation between western and central chimpanzees is much stronger than what is seen between human populations. This suggests that careful attention should be paid to geographic sampling in studies of chimpanzee genetic variation.

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