Identifying conservation units within captive chimpanzee populations


  • A previous version of this paper was awarded the 1995 Sherwood Washburn Prize for a studen-presented paper to A.S.D.


One of the primary objectives in the captive management of any endangered primate is to preserve as much as possible the genetic diversity that has evolved and still exists in wild gene pools. The rationale for this is based on the theoretical understanding of the relationship between genetic diversity and fitness in response to selection. There remains little consensus, however, as to the type of genetic data that should be used to monitor captive populations. In order to develop a deeper understanding of the degree and nature of genetic diversity among “wild” chimpanzee gene pools, as well as to determine if one type of genetic data is more useful than others, DNA sequence data were generated at three unlinked, nonrepetitive nuclear loci, one polymorphic microsatellite, and the mitochondrial D-loop for 59 unrelated common and pygmy chimpanzees. The results suggest that: 1) data from nuclear loci can be used to differentiate common chimpanzee subspecies; 2) pygmy chimpanzees may have less genetic diversity than common chimpanzees; 3) shared microsatellite alleles do not always indicate identity by descent; and 4) nonrepetitive loci provide unique insights into evolutionary relationships and provide useful information for captive management programs. Am J Phys Anthropol 111:25–44, 2000. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.