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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.

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Figure 1: Simple Speciation of humans and chimpanzees.


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

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