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Great ape genome variation now and then: current diversity and genomic relics of extinct primates

Project description

Genomic variation in great apes

To understand the processes of genomic variation, we need to determine the genomes of ancient species and track changes during evolution. The EU-funded ApeGenomeDiversity project is focussing on great ape diversity, and using ancient samples, it aims to obtain a direct view of the genomes of extinct populations. Comparison with samples from modern day apes will allow scientists to understand the origins and dynamics of genomic variants and how they contribute to the genomic landscape of living species. Most importantly, the project will provide insight into the history of our closest ancestors and the functional significance of specific introgression events in evolution.


In our quest to fully understand the processes that shape the genomic variation of species, describing variation of the past is a fundamental objective. However, the origins and the extent of great ape variation, the genomic description of extinct primate species and the genomic footprints of introgression events all remain unknown. Even today, and in contraposition to human evolutionary biology, the almost null presence of ancient great ape samples has precluded a comprehensive exploration of such diversity.

Here, I present two approaches that will expose great ape diversity throughout time and will allow me to compare the genomic impact of introgression events across lineages. First, I would like to take advantage of ancient ape samples that will provide us with a direct view of the genomes of extinct populations. Second, I would like to exploit current and recent diversity to indirectly access the parts of extinct ape genomes that became hybridized with current species in the past. For the latter, we will analyse hundreds of non-invasive samples taken from present-day great apes as well as historical specimens. Altogether, this information will enable me to decipher novel genomes that until now have been lost in time. In this way, I will be able to properly understand the origins and dynamics of genomic variants and to study how admixture has contributed to today´s adaptive landscape.

By completing this proposal and performing analogies to the human lineage, fundamental insights will be revealed about (i) the spatial-temporal history of our closest species and (ii) the functional consequences of introgressed events. On top of that, these results will help to annotate functional consequences of novel mutations in the human genome. In so doing, a fundamental insight will be provided into the evolutionary history of these regions and into human mutations with multiple repercussions in the understanding of evolution and human biology.



Net EU contribution
€ 1 896 875,00
Placa de la merce, 10-12
08002 Barcelona

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Este Cataluña Barcelona
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)