Genetic Differences Between Chimpanzee Populations


The evolutionary history of chimpanzees has been widely studied by researchers for a number of years. The number, and evolutionary relationship, of chimpanzee subspecies has been disputed for a number of years. In recent years researchers have used genomic data to investigate these questions. A consensus has emerged that chimpanzees are divided into four subspecies ranging across tropical Africa. However, little is known about underlying evolutionary processes that generated these patterns. Two major mechanisms have been proposed to drive the evolutionary diversification of chimpanzees: (1) isolation and subsequent diversification of taxa in Pleistocene Refugia and (2) isolation on opposite banks of riverine barriers. Additionally, the role of intraspecific differentiation and speciation through divergent selection across habitat gradients has been the focus of several recent studies, but this mechanism is relatively understudied in primates.

Key Concepts:

  • There have been recent breakthroughs into understanding the genetic differences between chimpanzee populations.

  • Genomic science has provided a window into the evolutionary history of chimpanzees.

  • Understanding evolutionary processes is vital to understanding chimpanzee evolution.

  • Understanding chimpanzee evolutionary history is of great interest to scientists.

  • Common chimpanzees can be divided into four genetically distinct subspecies.

Keywords: chimpanzee; genetics; subspecies; genome; bonobo; population; Africa

Figure 1.

Distribution of the genus Pan across Africa.

Figure 2.

Phylogeny of chimpanzees, bonobos and humans. Reconstructed and adapted from Prado‐Martinez et al. ().



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Further Reading

Locatelli S, McKean KA, Sesink Clee PR and Gonder MK (2014) The evolution of resistance to simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV): a review. International Journal of Primatology 35(2): 349–375.

Mitchell MW and Gonder MK (2013) Primate speciation: a case study of African apes. Nature Education Knowledge 4(2): 1.

Sesink Clee PR and Gonder MK (2012) Macroevolution: examples from the primate world. Nature Education Knowledge 3(12): 2.

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How to Cite close
Mitchell, Matthew W, and Gonder, Mary Katherine(Aug 2014) Genetic Differences Between Chimpanzee Populations. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021748]