How old are chimpanzee communities? Time to the most recent common ancestor of the Y-chromosome in highly patrilocal societies

Kevin E. Langergraber, Carolyn Rowney, Grit Schubert, Cathy Crockford, Catherine Hobaiter, Roman Wittig, Richard W. Wrangham, Klaus Zuberbühler, Linda Vigilant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Many human societies are patrilineal, with males passing on their name or descent group affiliation to their offspring. Y-chromosomes are also passed on from father to son, leading to the simple expectation that males sharing the same surname or descent group membership should have similar Y-chromosome haplotypes. Although several studies in patrilineal human societies have examined the correspondence between Y-chromosome variation and surname or descent group membership, similar studies in non-human animals are lacking. Chimpanzees represent an excellent species for examining the relationship between descent group membership and Y-chromosome variation because they live in strongly male philopatric communities that arise by a group-fissioning process. Here we take advantage of recent analytical advances in the calculation of the time to the most recent common male ancestor and a large sample size of 273 Y-chromosome short tandem repeat haplotypes to inform our understanding of the potential ages of eight communities of chimpanzees. We find that the times to the most recent common male ancestor of chimpanzee communities are several hundred to as much as over two thousand years. These genetic estimates of the great time depths of chimpanzee communities accord well with behavioral observations suggesting that community fissions are a very rare event and are similar to genetic estimates of the time depth of patrilineal human groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of human evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Ancestry
  • Community formation
  • Culture
  • Dating
  • Haplotype
  • Mutation rate
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Paternity
  • Philopatry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


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