News Website


Email Page Link Email Page Link
Printer Friendly Printer Friendly
Bookmark and Share

Migration and Origins of Chimpanzees in Africa Focus of UAlbany Scientist's Research
National Science Foundation awards UAlbany scientist $317,000 to track chimpanzees in Nigeria and Cameroon

Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 13, 2008) -- University at Albany Biological Sciences Professor Mary Katherine Gonder will study migration patterns and origins of chimpanzee populations in Africa with a more than $317,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. She will research the importance of the Sanaga River as a barrier to chimpanzee migration and compare genes of chimpanzees inhabiting the Gulf of Guinea area to chimpanzee populations from other African regions.

"Chimpanzees inhabiting the Gulf of Guinea region hold important clues for understanding the origins and diversification of chimpanzee populations all across the continent, but very little is known about chimpanzees inhabiting the region," said Gonder.

Genetic data already suggests that chimpanzees may be divided into two geographically defined groups -- a western African group and a central/eastern African group -- separated by the Sanaga River. This separation supports epidemiological and cultural differences between the two groups, including whether or not the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVcpz) is present. The virus occurs naturally in chimpanzees inhabiting southern Cameroon, central Africa and eastern Africa, though not in chimpanzees north of the Sanaga River or in any other chimpanzees from western Africa.

For the research, Gonder and other scientists will track wild chimpanzees to their sleeping sites in the forests of Cameroon and Nigeria. After the chimpanzees abandon these sites, researchers will search their sleeping nests for samples of shed hair and dung, which are used as sources of DNA for genetic testing. Additionally, researchers are working with chimpanzee sanctuaries in Cameroon that shelter chimpanzees orphaned after their families were hunted, killed and sold as "bushmeat." Genetic data from these orphans will be compared to the samples collected from wild chimpanzees to understand the origins of the orphans.

RSS Feeds AvailableFor more news, subscribe to UAlbany's RSS headline feeds

Educationally and culturally, the University at Albany-SUNY puts "The World Within Reach" for its 18,000 students. An internationally recognized research university with 56 undergraduate majors and 128 graduate degree programs, UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as public policy, nanotechnology and criminal justice. With a curriculum enhanced by 300 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers. For more information about this globally ranked University, visit For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit

Please send questions comments about the University News site to: