Reexamination of the African hominoid trichotomy with additional sequences from the primate beta-globin gene cluster

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 1992 Jun;1(2):97-135. doi: 10.1016/1055-7903(92)90024-b.


Additional DNA sequence information from a range of primates, including 13.7 kb from pygmy chimpanzee (Pan paniscus), was added to data sets of beta-globin gene cluster sequence alignments that span the gamma 1, gamma 2, and psi eta loci and their flanking and intergenic regions. This enlarged body of data was used to address the issue of whether the ancestral separations of gorilla, chimpanzee, and human lineages resulted from only one trichotomous branching or from two dichotomous branching events. The degree of divergence, corrected for superimposed substitutions, seen in the beta-globin gene cluster between human alleles is about a third to a half that observed between two species of chimpanzee and about a fourth that between human and chimpanzee. The divergence either between chimpanzee and gorilla or between human and gorilla is slightly greater than that between human and chimpanzee, suggesting that the ancestral separations resulted from two closely spaced dichotomous branchings. Maximum parsimony analysis further strengthened the evidence that humans and chimpanzees share the longest common ancestry. Support for this human-chimpanzee clade is statistically significant at P = 0.002 over a human-gorilla clade or a chimpanzee-gorilla clade. An analysis of expected and observed homoplasy revealed that the number of sequence changes uniquely shared by human and chimpanzee lineages is too large to be attributed to homoplasy. Molecular clock calculations that accommodated lineage variations in rates of molecular evolution yielded hominoid branching times that ranged from 17-19 million years ago (MYA) for the separation of gibbon from the other hominoids to 5-7 MYA for the separation of chimpanzees from humans. Based on the relatively late dates and mounting corroborative evidence from unlinked nuclear genes and mitochondrial DNA for the close sister grouping of humans and chimpanzees, a cladistic classification would place all apes and humans in the same family. Within this family, gibbons would be placed in one subfamily and all other extant hominoids in another subfamily. The later subfamily would be divided into a tribe for orangutans and another tribe for gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans. Finally, gorillas would be placed in one subtribe with chimpanzees and humans in another, although this last division is not as strongly supported as the other divisions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Clocks
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA / genetics
  • Gene Conversion
  • Globins / genetics*
  • Hominidae / classification
  • Hominidae / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family*
  • Phylogeny
  • Primates / classification
  • Primates / genetics
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid


  • Globins
  • DNA

Associated data

  • GENBANK/M81409
  • GENBANK/M91036
  • GENBANK/M91037
  • GENBANK/M93716