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Friday, April 18, 2008

New paper on Chimpanzee and Bonobo genetics

J. L. Caswell, Analysis of Chimpanzee History Based on Sequence Genome Allignments. PLOS Genetics, 2008.

No strong surprising conclussions but interesting anyhow, specially for the connections and parallels that can be drawn on us humans. Among the points touched in the discussion are:

  • · That the split between Western and Central chimpanzees involved a much larger effective population than previously thought (around 100,000)
  • · That the chimpanzee-bonobo split should be move backwards in time to at least 1.29 million years ago. And, that if the human-chimp divergence age is actually older (8 million years instead of 7), then this event would be coincident with the formation of the Congo river (1.5-2 Myrs BP), that many people belive is at the origin of bonobo speciation.
  • · That both chimpanzees and bonobos have large fractions of their genome that are closer to humans than each other, what is quite interesting and promising for future studies of human origins.

My personal note: genetic age estimates are always difficult, esotheric and slippery terrain but one pillar for them is the chimpanzee-human divergence estimate. If this one is 1 million years older than normally believed, all human genetic age estimates would need to be some 15% older, assuming all other assumptions are correct.

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