Research Article: The mitochondrial ancestor of bonobos and the origin of their major haplogroups

Date Published: May 3, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Hiroyuki Takemoto, Yoshi Kawamoto, Shoko Higuchi, Emiko Makinose, John A. Hart, Térese B. Hart, Tetsuya Sakamaki, Nahoko Tokuyama, Gay E. Reinartz, Patrick Guislain, Jef Dupain, Amy K. Cobden, Mbangi N. Mulavwa, Kumugo Yangozene, Serge Darroze, Céline Devos, Takeshi Furuichi, David Caramelli.


We report here where the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of bonobos (Pan paniscus) ranged and how they dispersed throughout their current habitat. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) molecular dating to analyze the time to MRCA (TMRCA) and the major mtDNA haplogroups of wild bonobos were performed using new estimations of divergence time of bonobos from other Pan species to investigate the dispersal routes of bonobos over the forest area of the Congo River’s left bank. The TMRCA of bonobos was estimated to be 0.64 or 0.95 million years ago (Ma). Six major haplogroups had very old origins of 0.38 Ma or older. The reconstruction of the ancestral area revealed the mitochondrial ancestor of the bonobo populations ranged in the eastern area of the current bonobos’ habitat. The haplogroups may have been formed from either the riparian forests along the Congo River or the center of the southern Congo Basin. Fragmentation of the forest refugia during the cooler periods may have greatly affected the formation of the genetic structure of bonobo populations.

Partial Text

Bonobos (Pan paniscus) range in the forest area of the southern Congo Basin, the left bank of the Congo River (Fig 1). Their divergence from chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) has been estimated to be 0.8–2.1 million years ago (Ma) from genetic studies [1]. Previous genome studies on two Pan species suggested that bonobos have clearly been separated from chimpanzees [2,3]. However the recent genome analysis indicated the possibility that some gene flow occurred between two species during the late Pleistocene [4]. In any case, we need to examine when and how the internal genetic clades of bonobos had branched off from each other, in order to investigate the history of bonobos.




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