Dispersal is a rare event that is difficult to observe in slowly maturing, long-lived wild animal species such as the bonobo. In this study we used sex-linked (mitochondrial DNA sequence and Y-chromosome microsatellite) markers from the same set of individuals to estimate the magnitude of difference in effective dispersal between the sexes and to investigate the long-term demographic history of bonobos. We sampled 34 males from four distinct geographical areas across the bonobo distribution range. As predicted for a female-dispersing species, we found much higher levels of differentiation among local bonobo populations based upon Y-chromosomal than mtDNA genetic variation. Specifically, almost all of the Y-chromosomal variation distinguished populations, while nearly all of the mtDNA variation was shared between populations. Furthermore, genetic distance correlated with geographical distance for mtDNA but not for the Y chromosome. Female bonobos have a much higher migration rate and/or effective population size as compared to males, and the estimate for the mitochondrial TMRCA (time to most recent common ancestor) was approximately 10 times greater than the estimate for the Y chromosome (410 000 vs. 40 000–45 000). For humans the difference is merely a factor of two, suggesting a more stable demographic history in bonobos in comparison to humans.
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