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Genetic diversity among Common Chimpanzees

I was very struck by the findings of recent studies of diversity in Pan troglodytes, which revealed that there were probably four subspecies, not four. I was particularly struck by one of the authors' statements, and here I quote:

…."The fact that all four recognized populations of chimpanzees are genetically distinct emphasizes the value of conserving them independently."

The authors also contrasted the levels of genetic differentiation between the chimpanzees from the different groups with those based on similar data for humans from different populations. Even though all the chimpanzee populations lived in relatively close proximity, with the habitats of two groups separated only by a river, chimpanzees from different populations were substantially more different genetically than humans living on different continents.

Professor Peter Donnelly, Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, and a senior author on the study, said: "Relatively small numbers of humans left Africa 50,000-100,000 years ago. All non-African populations descended from them, and are reasonably similar genetically. That chimpanzees from habitats in the same country, separated only by a river, are more distinct than humans from different continents is really interesting. It speaks to the great genetic similarities between human populations, and to much more stability, and less interbreeding, over hundreds of thousands of years, in the chimpanzee groups."

The implications of this are staggering, wouldn't you agree? If all humans are really so similar, why are we compelled to make so much of our superficial differences, especially, differences in "belief"?



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