Generation times in wild chimpanzees and gorillas suggest earlier divergence times in great ape and human evolution

Kevin E. Langergraber, Kay Pruefer, Carolyn Rowney, Christophe Boesch, Catherine Crockford, Katie Fawcett, Eiji Inoue, Miho Inoue-Muruyama, John C. Mitani, Martin N. Muller, Martha M. Robbins, Grit Schubert, Tara S. Stoinski, Bence Viola, David Watts, Roman M. Wittig, Richard W. Wrangham, Klaus Zuberbuehler, Svante Paeaebo, Linda Vigilant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

401 Citations (Scopus)


Fossils and molecular data are two independent sources of information that should in principle provide consistent inferences of when evolutionary lineages diverged. Here we use an alternative approach to genetic inference of species split times in recent human and ape evolution that is independent of the fossil record. We first use genetic parentage information on a large number of wild chimpanzees and mountain gorillas to directly infer their average generation times. We then compare these generation time estimates with those of humans and apply recent estimates of the human mutation rate per generation to derive estimates of split times of great apes and humans that are independent of fossil calibration. We date the human-chimpanzee split to at least 7-8 million years and the population split between Neanderthals and modern humans to 400,000-800,000 y ago. This suggests that molecular divergence dates may not be in conflict with the attribution of 6- to 7-million-y-old fossils to the human lineage and 400,000-y-old fossils to the Neanderthal lineage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15716-15721
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number39
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2012


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