Recent genetic connectivity and clinal variation in chimpanzees



Lester JD, Vigilant L, Gratton P, McCarthy MS, Barratt CD, Dieguez P, Agbor A, Álvarez-Varona P, Angedakin S, Ayimisin EA, Bailey E, Bessone M, Brazzola G, Jeffery KJ & Orbell C (2021) Recent genetic connectivity and clinal variation in chimpanzees. Communications Biology, 4 (1), Art. No.: 283.

Much like humans, chimpanzees occupy diverse habitats and exhibit extensive behavioural variability. However, chimpanzees are recognized as a discontinuous species, with four subspecies separated by historical geographic barriers. Nevertheless, their range-wide degree of genetic connectivity remains poorly resolved, mainly due to sampling limitations. By analyzing a geographically comprehensive sample set amplified at microsatellite markers that inform recent population history, we found that isolation by distance explains most of the range-wide genetic structure of chimpanzees. Furthermore, we did not identify spatial discontinuities corresponding with the recognized subspecies, suggesting that some of the subspecies-delineating geographic barriers were recently permeable to gene flow. Substantial range-wide genetic connectivity is consistent with the hypothesis that behavioural flexibility is a salient driver of chimpanzee responses to changing environmental conditions. Finally, our observation of strong local differentiation associated with recent anthropogenic pressures portends future loss of critical genetic diversity if habitat fragmentation and population isolation continue unabated.

Classification and taxonomy; Evolutionary biology; Evolutionary ecology; Genotyping and haplotyping; Structural variation

Additional co-authors: Rebecca Chancellor, Heather Cohen, Emmanuel Danquah, Tobias Deschner, Villard Ebot Egbe, Manasseh Eno-Nku, Annemarie Goedmakers, Anne-Céline Granjon, Josephine Head, Daniela Hedwig, R. Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar, Sorrel Jones, Jessica Junker, Parag Kadam, Michael Kaiser, Ammie K. Kalan, Laura Kehoe, Ivonne Kienast, Kevin E. Langergraber, Juan Lapuente, Anne Laudisoit, Kevin Lee, Sergio Marrocoli, Vianet Mihindou, David Morgan, Geoffrey Muhanguzi, Emily Neil, Sonia Nicholl, Lucy Jayne Ormsby, Liliana Pacheco, Alex Piel, Martha M. Robbins, Aaron Rundus, Crickette Sanz, Lilah Sciaky, Alhaji M. Siaka, Veronika Städele, Fiona Stewart, Nikki Tagg, Els Ton, Joost van Schijndel, Magloire Kambale Vyalengerera, Erin G. Wessling, Jacob Willie, Roman M. Wittig, Yisa Ginath Yuh, Kyle Yurkiw, Klaus Zuberbuehler, Christophe Boesch, Hjalmar S. Kühl & Mimi Arandjelovic

Communications Biology: Volume 4, Issue 1

FundersMax-Planck-Gesellschaft and Max Planck Society Innovation Fund Heinz L. Krekeler Foundation
Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online05/03/2021
Date accepted by journal04/02/2021
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media LLC

People (1)


Ms Kathryn Jeffery

Ms Kathryn Jeffery

Research Fellow, Biological and Environmental Sciences