Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Complex speciation of humans and chimpanzees


Arising from: N. Patterson, D. J. Richter, S. Gnerre, E. Lander & D. Reich Nature 441, 1103–1108 (2006)10.1038/nature04789; Patterson et al. reply

Genetic data from two or more species provide information about the process of speciation. In their analysis of DNA from humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and macaques (HCGOM), Patterson et al.1 suggest that the apparently short divergence time between humans and chimpanzees on the X chromosome is explained by a massive interspecific hybridization event in the ancestry of these two species. However, Patterson et al.1 do not statistically test their own null model of simple speciation before concluding that speciation was complex, and—even if the null model could be rejected—they do not consider other explanations of a short divergence time on the X chromosome. These include natural selection on the X chromosome in the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees, changes in the ratio of male-to-female mutation rates over time, and less extreme versions of divergence with gene flow (see ref. 2, for example). I therefore believe that their claim of hybridization is unwarranted.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Simple Speciation of humans and chimpanzees.


  1. Patterson, N., Richter, D. J., Gnerre, S., Lander, E. & Reich, D. Genetic evidence for complex speciation of humans and chimpanzees. Nature 441, 1103–1108 (2006)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Innan, H. & Watanabe, H. The effect of gene flow on the coalescent time in the human–chimpanzee ancestral population. Mol. Biol. Evol. 23, 1040–1047 (2006)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Barton, N. H. Evolutionary biology: how did the human species form? Curr. Biol. 16, R647–R650 (2006)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Goetting-Minetsky, M. P. & Makova, K. D. Mammalian male mutational bias: impacts of generation time and regional variation in substitution rates. J. Mol. Evol. 63, 537–544 (2006)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. The Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium. Initial sequence of the chimpanzee genome and comparison with the human genome. Nature 437, 69–87 (2005)

  6. The International SNP Map Working Group. A map of human genome sequence variation containing 1.42 million single nucleotide polymorphisms. Nature 409, 928–933 (2001)

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Wakeley, J. Complex speciation of humans and chimpanzees. Nature 452, E3–E4 (2008).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing