Generation times in wild chimpanzees and gorillas suggest earlier divergence times in great ape and human evolution

Contributed by Svante Pääbo, July 13, 2012 (sent for review May 27, 2012)
August 13, 2012
109 (39) 15716-15721
Commentary
Longer time scale for human evolution
John Hawks
Letter
Reply to Gibb and Hills: Divergence times, generation lengths and mutation rates in great apes and humans
Kay Prüfer, Kevin E. Langergraber [...] Linda Vigilant

Abstract

Fossils and molecular data are two independent sources of information that should in principle provide consistent inferences of when evolutionary lineages diverged. Here we use an alternative approach to genetic inference of species split times in recent human and ape evolution that is independent of the fossil record. We first use genetic parentage information on a large number of wild chimpanzees and mountain gorillas to directly infer their average generation times. We then compare these generation time estimates with those of humans and apply recent estimates of the human mutation rate per generation to derive estimates of split times of great apes and humans that are independent of fossil calibration. We date the human–chimpanzee split to at least 7–8 million years and the population split between Neanderthals and modern humans to 400,000–800,000 y ago. This suggests that molecular divergence dates may not be in conflict with the attribution of 6- to 7-million-y-old fossils to the human lineage and 400,000-y-old fossils to the Neanderthal lineage.

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Acknowledgments

We thank A. Abraham for laboratory assistance, R. Mundry for assistance with estimation of uncertainties in average parental ages, the three reviewers, W.-H. Li for helpful comments on the manuscript, and the many agencies and governments that support the field research (see SI ACKNOWLEDGMENTS). This project was funded by the Max Planck Society. K.E.L. was supported by a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 109 | No. 39
September 25, 2012
PubMed: 22891323

Classifications

Submission history

Published online: August 13, 2012
Published in issue: September 25, 2012

Keywords

  1. hominin
  2. molecular dating
  3. primate
  4. speciation

Acknowledgments

We thank A. Abraham for laboratory assistance, R. Mundry for assistance with estimation of uncertainties in average parental ages, the three reviewers, W.-H. Li for helpful comments on the manuscript, and the many agencies and governments that support the field research (see SI ACKNOWLEDGMENTS). This project was funded by the Max Planck Society. K.E.L. was supported by a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Notes

See Commentary on page 15531.

Authors

Affiliations

Kevin E. Langergraber1
Department of Anthropology, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215;
Primatology Department and
Kay Prüfer1
Genetics Department, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig 04103, Germany;
Carolyn Rowney
Primatology Department and
Christophe Boesch
Primatology Department and
Catherine Crockford
School of Psychology, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews KY16 9JP, United Kingdom;
Katie Fawcett
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Atlanta, GA 30315;
Eiji Inoue
Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kitashirakawa Oiwake-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan;
Miho Inoue-Muruyama
Wildlife Research Center, Kyoto University, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-820, Japan;
John C. Mitani
Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109;
Martin N. Muller
Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131;
Martha M. Robbins
Primatology Department and
Grit Schubert
Primatology Department and
Present address: Research Group Emerging Zoonoses, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin 13353, Germany.
Tara S. Stoinski
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Atlanta, GA 30315;
Bence Viola
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig 04103, Germany;
David Watts
Department of Anthropology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511; and
Roman M. Wittig
Primatology Department and
School of Psychology, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews KY16 9JP, United Kingdom;
Richard W. Wrangham
Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138
Klaus Zuberbühler
School of Psychology, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews KY16 9JP, United Kingdom;
Svante Pääbo3 [email protected]
Genetics Department, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig 04103, Germany;
Linda Vigilant3 [email protected]
Primatology Department and

Notes

3
To whom correspondence may be addressed. E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected].
Author contributions: K.E.L., K.P., S.P., and L.V. designed research; K.E.L., C.R., and G.S. performed research; C.B., C.C., K.F., E.I., M.I.-M., J.C.M., M.N.M., M.M.R., T.S.S., D.W., R.M.W., R.W.W., and K.Z. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; K.E.L., K.P., and L.V. analyzed data; and K.E.L., K.P., B.V., S.P., and L.V. wrote the paper.
1
K.E.L. and K.P. contributed equally to this work.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Generation times in wild chimpanzees and gorillas suggest earlier divergence times in great ape and human evolution
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 109
    • No. 39
    • pp. 15529-15965

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