The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016)

The hybrid dynamics of baboons


1Cognitive Ethology Laboratory, German Primate Center, 2Primate Genetics Laboratory, German Primate Center

April 14, 2016 10:45, Imperial Ballroom B Add to calendar

The evolutionary history of hominins was heavily affected by changes in climate and ecology in the African woodland and savannah biome. Expansion, fragmentation, isolation and merging of populations with impacts on interpopulation gene flow and speciation most likely occurred various times and at various locations during the Plio-Pleistocene. Since today only one hominin species remains, studies of speciation and hybridization within our extant lineage are problematic. However, baboons (genus Papio) evolved and radiated in parallel with hominins, probably within the same landscape and timeframe. In contrast to living hominins, they currently comprise at least six species, providing an analogue model for the study of speciation and hybridization in a savannah living primate taxon. Molecular studies indicate incidents of ancient hybridization and provided insight into ongoing gene flow among different species.

We report on findings of phylogeographic and population genetic studies, which suggest that male introgression with nuclear swamping or mitochondrial capture might have played a predominant role in shaping the contemporary phylogeographic pattern of baboons, and that hybridization has also impacted their speciation processes. To what extent the patterns and processes found in baboons can be a useful model for various aspects of the intra-African hominin evolution will be discussed.

Parts of this study were funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG ZI 548/3-1) and the Leakey Foundation.