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Comparative Study
, 441 (7097), 1103-8

Genetic Evidence for Complex Speciation of Humans and Chimpanzees

Comparative Study

Genetic Evidence for Complex Speciation of Humans and Chimpanzees

Nick Patterson et al. Nature.


The genetic divergence time between two species varies substantially across the genome, conveying important information about the timing and process of speciation. Here we develop a framework for studying this variation and apply it to about 20 million base pairs of aligned sequence from humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and more distantly related primates. Human-chimpanzee genetic divergence varies from less than 84% to more than 147% of the average, a range of more than 4 million years. Our analysis also shows that human-chimpanzee speciation occurred less than 6.3 million years ago and probably more recently, conflicting with some interpretations of ancient fossils. Most strikingly, chromosome X shows an extremely young genetic divergence time, close to the genome minimum along nearly its entire length. These unexpected features would be explained if the human and chimpanzee lineages initially diverged, then later exchanged genes before separating permanently.

Comment in

  • Evolutionary Biology: How Did the Human Species Form?
    NH Barton. Curr Biol 16 (16), R647-50. PMID 16920616. - Review
    A recent analysis has shown that divergence between human and chimpanzee varies greatly across the genome. Although this is consistent with "hybridisation" between the di …
  • Complex Speciation of Humans and Chimpanzees
    J Wakeley. Nature 452 (7184), E3-4; discussion E4. PMID 18337768.
    Genetic data from two or more species provide information about the process of speciation. In their analysis of DNA from humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and mac …

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