International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 379-393

First online:

Differences in male and female macaque dispersal lead to contrasting distributions of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA variation

  • Don J. MelnickAffiliated withGenetics Laboratory, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University
  • , Guy A. HoelzerAffiliated withGenetics Laboratory, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University

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Male macaques typically leave their natal group before sexual maturity, while females remain for life. Thus genes flow between groups and populations almost solely through male transfer. This asymmetrical dispersal pattern, affects the distribution of variation in the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes differently Nuclear genetic variation, measured by allozyme polymorphisms, is relatively evenly distributed throughout the populations of a macaque species, provided there are no major geographical barriers. Conversely the distribution of maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) diversity is characterized by local homogeneity and large interpopulational differences. Because of differences in inheritance, dispersal, and population structure, the information contained in nuclear and mitochondrial genomes is best used to address different types of behavioral, genetic, and conservation questions.


allozymes mitochondrial DNA population structure social organization macaques