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Curr Biol. 2006 Jun 6;16(11):1133-8.

Demographic history and genetic differentiation in apes.

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Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany.


Comparisons of genetic variation between humans and great apes are hampered by the fact that we still know little about the demographics and evolutionary history of the latter species. In addition, characterizing ape genetic variation is important because they are threatened with extinction, and knowledge about genetic differentiation among groups may guide conservation efforts. We sequenced multiple intergenic autosomal regions totaling 22,400 base pairs (bp) in ten individuals each from western, central, and eastern chimpanzee groups and in nine bonobos, and 16,000 bp in ten Bornean and six Sumatran orangutans. These regions are analyzed together with homologous information from three human populations and gorillas. We find that whereas orangutans have the highest diversity, western chimpanzees have the lowest, and that the demographic histories of most groups differ drastically. Special attention should therefore be paid to sampling strategies and the statistics chosen when comparing levels of variation within and among groups. Finally, we find that the extent of genetic differentiation among "subspecies" of chimpanzees and orangutans is comparable to that seen among human populations, calling the validity of the "subspecies" concept in apes into question.

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