The chimpanzee populations of the Bossou and Nimba regions in West Africa were genetically surveyed to 1) reveal the genetic relationship between the Bossou and Nimba populations, and 2) elucidate the evolutionary relationship between the Bossou-Nimba and other West African populations. The chimpanzee group at Bossou is characterized by its small population size, no evidence of contact with neighboring populations, and no female immigration. It is believed that most females and adolescent males emigrate from this population. To reveal the genetic signature of these characteristics, we examined the genetic diversity of Bossou and two neighboring populations (Seringbara and Yealé) in the Nimba Mountains by sequencing approximately 605 bp of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region. A total of 20 distinct mtDNA variants were observed from 56 sequences of noninvasively collected, anonymous samples. Nucleotide diversity in the Nimba Mountain populations was 0.03-0.04, and did not differ significantly from that in the Bossou population. Very few mitochondrial variants are shared among the sites sampled, which suggests that there is little gene flow involving mtDNA. Nevertheless, no clear population structures were revealed in either population. A comparison with published sequences from West African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) indicates that the variants observed in the Bossou and Nimba regions are scattered throughout the subspecies, rather than clustered according to geographic region. This suggests that the Bossou-Nimba populations derived only recently from the common ancestral population of the West African chimpanzees, and did not pass through a bottleneck.
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