Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 23–26 | Cite as

The genetic distance between humans and chimpanzees: What did Mary-Claire king and Allan Wilson really say in 1975?

  • Michel MorangeEmail author


Some scientific articles have been so often quoted and commented upon that scientists who feel they are fully conversant with their contents may actually be wrong. In 1975, King and Wilson proposed that the genetic distance between human beings and chimpanzees was less than 1% (King and Wilson 1975). Twenty-six years later, the well-known paleoanthropologist Svante Pääbo (2001) emphasized the impact that this article had, and the blow it was to our feeling of uniqueness and supremacy: chimpanzees and humans had been shown to be very close by the measure of the genetic distance between them. However, when the first draft of the chimpanzee genome was published in 2005, the facts turned out to be less simple (The Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium 2005). The famous 1% had become a myth (Cohen 2007) that had prevented a clear perception of the true differences. In fact, 1% represents the frequency of point mutations that occurred after the divergence of the human...


Chromosomal rearrangement genetic distance human evolution neutralism regulatory mutations 



I am indebted to David Marsh for his critical reading of the manuscript, and to the anonymous reviewer for his very helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre Cavaillès, CIRPHLES USR 3308, Ecole normale supérieureParis Cedex 05France

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