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Patterns of genetic variation within and between Gibbon species.

  • Author(s): Kim, Sung K
  • Carbone, Lucia
  • Becquet, Celine
  • Mootnick, Alan R
  • Li, David Jiang
  • de Jong, Pieter J
  • Wall, Jeffrey D
  • et al.
Abstract

Gibbons are small, arboreal, highly endangered apes that are understudied compared with other hominoids. At present, there are four recognized genera and approximately 17 species, all likely to have diverged from each other within the last 5-6 My. Although the gibbon phylogeny has been investigated using various approaches (i.e., vocalization, morphology, mitochondrial DNA, karyotype, etc.), the precise taxonomic relationships are still highly debated. Here, we present the first survey of nuclear sequence variation within and between gibbon species with the goal of estimating basic population genetic parameters. We gathered ~60 kb of sequence data from a panel of 19 gibbons representing nine species and all four genera. We observe high levels of nucleotide diversity within species, indicative of large historical population sizes. In addition, we find low levels of genetic differentiation between species within a genus comparable to what has been estimated for human populations. This is likely due to ongoing or episodic gene flow between species, and we estimate a migration rate between Nomascus leucogenys and N. gabriellae of roughly one migrant every two generations. Together, our findings suggest that gibbons have had a complex demographic history involving hybridization or mixing between diverged populations.

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