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Thompson / Oral

A model of the biogeographical journey from proto-pan to Pan paniscus.

Jo Thompson

     Pan paniscus holds a unique place in the range of modern day great apes. Pan paniscus, the bonobo, is the only Pongidae living south of the Congo River, a semi-transcontinental barrier that reproductively separated members of the large-bodied, non-swimming superfamily Hominoidea. The central African tropical zone constitutes the principal theater of ape evolution and root of human origins. Thus examination of the biogeographical journey of bonobos is an important component to consider when discussing the establishment of hominids and evolution of the African apes. This paper considers a reconstruction of the paleogeographic features, including distribution and abundance of food resources, and fluctuating environmental pressures which influenced bonobo divergence, distribution, demography, and socioecology and which moderated the emergence of Homo from the proto-pan ancestor. Findings from the ecological study of a wild population of bonobos living at the most southern limit of modern day bonobo distribution will highlight adaptive strategies which diverging species may have utilized in the archaic environment of mosaic forest and grassland habitat where Australopithecus ramidus evolved. The implications on the emergence of Homo, independent of the forest habitat, will be discussed.