, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 101–112 | Cite as

Contrasting demographic histories of the neighboring bonobo and chimpanzee

  • Christina Hvilsom
  • Frands Carlsen
  • Rasmus Heller
  • Nina Jaffré
  • Hans R. Siegismund
Original Article


The Pleistocene epoch was a period of dramatic climate change that had profound impacts on the population sizes of many animal species. How these species were shaped by past events is often unclear, hindering our understanding of the population dynamics resulting in present day populations. We analyzed complete mitochondrial genomes representing all four recognized chimpanzee subspecies and the bonobo to infer the recent demographic history and used simulations to exclude a confounding effect of population structure. Our genus-wide Bayesian coalescent-based analysis revealed surprisingly dissimilar demographic histories of the chimpanzee subspecies and the bonobo, despite their overlapping habitat requirements. Whereas the central and eastern chimpanzee subspecies were inferred to have expanded tenfold between around 50,000 and 80,000 years ago and today, the population size of the neighboring bonobo remained constant. The changes in population size are likely linked to changes in habitat area due to climate oscillations during the late Pleistocene. Furthermore, the timing of population expansion for the rainforest-adapted chimpanzee is concurrent with the expansion of the savanna-adapted human, which could suggest a common response to changed climate conditions around 50,000–80,000 years ago.


Pan Mitochondrial genome Bayesian inference Demography MCMC 



For generously providing samples, we thank Professor Dr. Werner Schempp (University of Freiburg), Ronald Bontrop (Biomedical Primate Research Centre), and Furuviksparken, Sweden. Thanks to Sandra Abel Nielsen for sharing her research protocol and to Amal Al Chaer and Tanja Normann Gade for their invaluable assistance. For financial support we thank 15. Juni Fund, Torben & Alice Frimodts Fund, H.R. & Grete S. Frederiksens Fund, the Danish Council for Independent Research | Natural Sciences, as well as the Industrial PhD program, Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation.

Supplementary material

10329_2013_373_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (936 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 935 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Hvilsom
    • 1
    • 2
  • Frands Carlsen
    • 1
  • Rasmus Heller
    • 2
  • Nina Jaffré
    • 3
  • Hans R. Siegismund
    • 2
  1. 1.Research and ConservationCopenhagen ZooFrederiksbergDenmark
  2. 2.Bioinformatics, Department of BiologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.Centre de PrimatologieCentre International de Recherches Médicales de FrancevilleFrancevilleGabon

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