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How did bonobos come to range south of the congo river? Reconsideration of the divergence of Pan paniscus from other Pan populations
Hiroyuki Takemoto, Yoshi Kawamoto and Takeshi Furuichi

While investigating the genetic structure in wild bonobos,1 we realized that the widely accepted scenario positing that the Pleistocene appearance of the Congo River separated the common ancestor of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (P. paniscus) into two species is not supported by recent geographical knowledge about the formation of the Congo River. We explored the origin of bonobos using a broader biogeographical perspective by examining local faunas in the central African region. The submarine Congo River sediments and paleotopography of central Africa show that the Congo River has functioned as a geographical barrier for the last 34 million years. This evidence allows us to hypothesize that when the river was first formed, the ancestor of bonobos did not inhabit the current range of the species on the left bank of the Congo River but that, during rare times when the Congo River discharge decreased during the Pleistocene, one or more founder populations of ancestral Pan paniscus crossed the river to its left bank. The proposed scenario for formation of the Congo River and the corridor hypothesis for an ancestral bonobo population is key to understanding the distribution of great apes and their evolution.

Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews
Volume 24, Issue 5, pages 170-184, September/October 2015

DOI: 10.1002/evan.21456
2015/10/21 Primate Research Institute