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Mol Biol Evol. 2010 Jun;27(6):1425-35. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msq028. Epub 2010 Jan 29.

Bayesian inference of the demographic history of chimpanzees.

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Department of Biology, Computational and Molecular Population Genetics Laboratory, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.


Due to an almost complete absence of fossil record, the evolutionary history of chimpanzees has only been studied recently on the basis of genetic data. Although the general topology of the chimpanzee phylogeny is well established, uncertainties remain concerning the size of current and past populations, the occurrence of bottlenecks or population expansions, or about divergence times and migrations rates between subspecies. Here, we present a novel attempt at globally inferring the detailed evolution of the Pan genus based on approximate Bayesian computation, an approach preferentially applied to complex models where the likelihood cannot be computed analytically. Based on two microsatellite and DNA sequence data sets and adjusting simulated data for local levels of inbreeding and patterns of missing data, we find support for several new features of chimpanzee evolution as compared with previous studies based on smaller data sets and simpler evolutionary models. We find that the central chimpanzees are certainly the oldest population of all P. troglodytes subspecies and that the other two P. t. subspecies diverged from the central chimpanzees by founder events. We also find an older divergence time (1.6 million years [My]) between common chimpanzee and Bonobos than previous studies (0.9-1.3 My), but this divergence appears to have been very progressive with the maintenance of relatively high levels of gene flow between the ancestral chimpanzee population and the Bonobos. Finally, we could also confirm the existence of strong unidirectional gene flow from the western into the central chimpanzee. These results show that interesting and innovative features of chimpanzee history emerge when considering their whole evolutionary history in a single analysis, rather than relying on simpler models involving several comparisons of pairs of populations.

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