, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 1103-1127

New Genetic Evidence on the Evolution of Chimpanzee Populations and Implications for Taxonomy

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Primatologists widely recognize chimpanzees as belonging to a single species, Pan troglodytes, which they traditionally have further divided into 3 subspecies: west African P. t. verus, central African P. t. troglodytes, and east African P. t. schweinfurthii. Previously, we suggested that the phylogeographic history of chimpanzees may be different from that implied by the widely used taxonomy of the species. We based the suggestion on only a limited sample of haplotypes from the first hypervariable region (HVRI) of mitochondrial (mt)DNA from chimpanzees in Nigeria. We have now compiled a more geographically comprehensive genetic database for chimpanzees, including samples obtained near the Niger and Sanaga Rivers. Our database is composed of 254 HVRI haplotypes from chimpanzees of known geographic origin, including 79 unique HVRI haplotypes from chimpanzees living in Nigeria and Cameroon. The genetic data provide clear evidence that a major phylogeographic break between chimpanzee lineages occurs near the Sanaga River in central Cameroon and suggest the need for a reclassification of chimpanzees.