Kuhlwilm, M., Han, S., Sousa, V.C., Excoffier, L. & Marues-Bonet T. (2019) Ancient admixture from an extinct ape lineage into bonobos.Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3, 957-965. DOI:10.1038/s41559-019-0881-7 (IF2019 12,541; Q4 Evolutionary Biology)
Admixture is a recurrent phenomenon in humans and other great ape populations. Genetic information from extinct hominins allows us to study historical interactions with modern humans and discover adaptive functions of gene flow. Here, we investigate whole genomes from bonobo and chimpanzee populations for signatures of gene flow from unknown archaic populations, finding evidence for an ancient admixture event between bonobos and a divergent lineage. This result reveals a complex population history in our closest living relatives, probably several hundred thousand years ago. We reconstruct up to 4.8% of the genome of this ‘ghost’ ape, which represents genomic data of an extinct great ape population. Genes contained in archaic fragments might confer functional consequences for the immunity, behaviour and physiology of bonobos. Finally, comparing the landscapes of introgressed regions in humans and bonobos, we find that a recurrent depletion of introgression is rare, suggesting that genomic incompatibilities arose seldom in these lineages.