Ancestral population sizes and species divergence times in the primate lineage on the basis of intron and BAC end sequences

Yoko Satta, Michael Hickerson, Hidemi Watanabe, Colm O'hUigin, Jan Klein

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28 Scopus citations


The effective sizes of ancestral populations and species divergence times of six primate species (humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and representatives of Old World monkeys and New World monkeys) are estimated by applying the two-species maximum likelihood (ML) method to intron sequences of 20 different loci. Examination of rate heterogeneity of nucleotide substitutions and intragenic recombination identifies five outrageous loci (ODC1, GHR, HBE, INS, and HBG). The estimated ancestral polymorphism ranges from 0.21 to 0.96% at major divergences in primate evolution. One exceptionally low polymorphism occurs when African and Asian apes diverged. However, taking into consideration the possible short generation times in primate ancestors, it is concluded that the ancestral population size in the primate lineage was no smaller than that of extant humans. Furthermore, under the assumption of 6 million years (myr) divergence between humans and chimpanzees, the divergence time of humans from gorillas, orangutans, Old World monkeys, and New World monkeys is estimated as 7.2, 18, 34, and 65 myr ago, respectively, which are generally older than traditional estimates. Beside the intron sequences, three other data sets of orthologous sequences are used between the human and the chimpanzee comparison. The ML application to these data sets including 58,156 random BAC end sequences (BES) shows that the nucleotide substitution rate is as low as 0.6-0.8 × 10-9 per site per year and the extent of ancestral polymorphism is 0.33-0.51%. With such a low substitution rate and short generation time, the relatively high extent of polymorphism suggests a fairly large effective population size in the ancestral lineage common to humans and chimpanzees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-487
Number of pages10
JournalJournal Of Molecular Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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