Out of Eurasia, a great primate evolutionary bottleneck?

October 15, 2013

On the road to our modern human lineage, scientists speculate there were many twist and turns, evolutionary dead ends, and population bottlenecks along the way. But how large were population sizes of common ancestors of the great apes and humans, and does the genetic analysis support the prevailing views of a great bottleneck in primate evolution?

Using inferred evolutionary rates of more than 1400 genes and ancestral generation times, Professor Carlos Schrago and colleagues trace histories backwards across to estimate population sizes for common ancestors. Their results show that the population sizes of lineages leading to human and chimpanzees dramatically shrunk over evolutionary time, from approximately 1,200,000 in number to 30,000.

This population reduction coincides with bio-geographical data that suggests a ancestral migration event from Eurasia to Africa during the late Miocene period, from approximately 12 to 5.5 million years ago, with a five-fold reduction in effective population size between the ancestor of the Eurasian and African great apes and the ancestor of African great apes alone, suggesting that the Homininae diversified after a dispersal event from an Eurasian ancestor.

The article appears in the advanced online edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

Explore further: Chimpanzee ground nests offer new insight into our ancestors descent from the trees

More information: mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/10/11/molbev.mst191.abstract

Related Stories

Scientists complete Bonobo genome

June 13, 2012

In a project led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, an international team of scientists has completed the sequencing and analysis of the genome of the last great ape, the bonobo. Bonobos, ...

Young apes manage emotions like humans, study says

October 14, 2013

Researchers studying young bonobos in an African sanctuary have discovered striking similarities between the emotional development of the bonobos and that of children, suggesting these great apes regulate their emotions in ...

Recommended for you

Head and body lice read DNA differently

July 28, 2015

What makes head lice different from body lice had scientists scratching their heads as previous genetic studies failed to find any substantial differences between the two types of lice.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.