Document Type

Honors Project


African ape populations have been severely declining over the last century; chimpanzee populations are now as small as 1% of the size they were only 50 years ago and gorillas are extinct in huge parts of their previous ranges. Nevertheless, it is difficult for researchers to study gorilla and chimpanzee populations due to their mobile lifestyles and threats of poaching and violence in their native regions. By looking at dental traits that are inherited genetically in different geographic ape populations from the early 20th century, this paper shows a novel way of obtaining information about the African apes. Similarities between distantly removed groups demonstrate that the current subspecies designations are grouped according to geographic distribution and not according to barriers that isolate reproduction. This implies that maintenance of subspecies designation in the genus Pan may be encouraging decreases in genetic diversity and causing man-made speciation within the African apes. The purpose of this paper is to understand African ape movement and speciation using genetic information from the deciduous dentition and to use this information to reassess the subspecies designations that are used in conservation.



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