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Of chimpanzees and bonobos
Modern non-African human genomes contain genomic remnants that suggest that there was interbreeding between ancient humans and archaic hominoid lineages. Now, de Manuel et al. show similar ancestral interbreeding between the ancestors of today's chimpanzees and bonobos (see the Perspective by Hoelzel). The study also provides population-specific genetic markers that may be valuable for conservation efforts.
Our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, have a complex demographic history. We analyzed the high-coverage whole genomes of 75 wild-born chimpanzees and bonobos from 10 countries in Africa. We found that chimpanzee population substructure makes genetic information a good predictor of geographic origin at country and regional scales. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that gene flow occurred from bonobos into the ancestors of central and eastern chimpanzees between 200,000 and 550,000 years ago, probably with subsequent spread into Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees. Together with another, possibly more recent contact (after 200,000 years ago), bonobos contributed less than 1% to the central chimpanzee genomes. Admixture thus appears to have been widespread during hominid evolution.