Scientists crack bonobo genetic code

2012-06-13 21:01

Paris - Scientists said on Wednesday they have cracked the genetic code of the bonobo and found the ape had some DNA encryption more in common with humans than even its closest relative, the chimpanzee.

The bonobo is the last of the so-called great apes to have its genome sequenced, after those of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans.

The data, which scientists hope will help shed more light on the lineage of humans, was obtained from Ulindi, a female bonobo at Leipzig zoo.

It showed that more than three percent of the human genome, which contains our hereditary data encoded in DNA, was more closely related to either the bonobo or the chimpanzee genome than these were to each other.

The information "opens the possibility of gauging the genetic diversity and, hence, the population history of the [common] ancestor," said the international research team of the study published in the journal Nature.

The bonobo and the chimp are Man's closes living relatives.

The genomic study showed that humans differed by about 1.3% from the bonobo or the chimpanzee, who in turn differed by about 0.4% from each other.

Although they are similar in many respects, the two African apes differ in key social and sexual behaviour, and in some show more similarity with humans than with each other.

Male chimps aggressively compete for dominance and sex, and join forces to defend their home range and attack other groups.


Bonobo males, however, are commonly subordinate to females, do not compete for rank and do not partake in battle. They are playful animals who have sex for fun, not just to reproduce.

"Chimpanzees and bonobos each possess certain characteristics that are more similar to human traits than they are to one another's," said the research paper.

This showed that a common ancestor "may in fact have possessed a mosaic of features, including those now seen in bonobo, chimpanzee and human".

Chimpanzees are widespread across equatorial Africa, while bonobos live only south of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Because of their small and remote habitat, bonobos were the last ape species to be "discovered", in the 1920s, and are the rarest of all apes in captivity.

Scientists are as yet unable to use the genome to determine what its owner would have looked like or behaved.

Researcher Kay Pruefer, a biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said the research provided more information on bonobos and chimpanzees that it did about humans.

"But at some point, our hope is that understanding the differences between bonobos and chimpanzees... will help us also understand what the common ancestor (of humans, chimps and bonobos) looked like," he told AFP.

"This would actually start being very interesting for us because it would inform us what was actually a new trait that humans acquired in their evolution over the last millions of years."

The researchers said the gene sequencing showed that bonobos and chimps did not mix or interbreed after their paths split geographically about two million years ago, possibly by the formation of the Congo River.

  • eyesears.handsfeet - 2012-06-14 08:29

    Next time an alien species will be closest to Man's closes living relatives. Enough said.

      janalbert.vandenberg - 2012-06-14 08:45

      "an space alien species"? I hope for their sake your comment is not true, as that will make them just as gullible and idiotic as we are as a species. However, I suspect if they do exist, they just might be more advanced than we are. Do you know what's the best evidence I've got that they are more advanced? I'll tell ya: the fact that they have NEVER tried to contact us.

  • Zing - 2012-06-14 08:49

    Great - great - great - great Grandpa!

      janalbert.vandenberg - 2012-06-14 08:55

      Who's you daddy?! BTW, Ulindi (the bonobo) is a female... LOL

      Zing - 2012-06-15 09:15

      Oops . . :D Then she must be my great-great-great-great mother in law.

  • Mpho - 2012-06-14 11:09

    bonobos have sex for fun...that's the only thing i got from this

  • mike.down.5492 - 2012-06-14 12:36

    Even if you had never heard of evolution, this would make one think that we are definitely related by common ancestry, it's a no brainer

  • Sonwabile Langa-Nomvalo - 2012-06-14 13:49

    Lol Bonobos are porn stars...

      Zing - 2012-06-15 09:17

      Yeaaaa baby! *slaps butt

  • ntsanen - 2012-06-14 14:13

    We all like to say Mother Nature, but I know Father Nature (God)if man was a relative to an Ape. I think he could have introduced Adam to him as a relative.

  • Grant - 2012-06-14 18:38

    A few things that we need to realise: 1. It seems like the human genome has not been 100% sequenced yet ( - it seems like they are talking 95%. The question is what is in the remaining 5%? How can we say the bonobo or chimp is 99% same when we have not done either the full sequencing of either - this is speculation. Furthermore, the DNA is like programming, and until the program is understood, you cannot compare 2 programs and say how similar they are to each other, at this point most of the genome seems not to be understood yet. 2. The DNA of the turtle is "shown" to put it closer to the alligator than snake, yet its anatomy is closer to the snake - which is correct? 3. For the absolutely absurd and - "The research, published in today’s edition of Nature (21 August), is the first conclusive proof that humans and the ‘Xenoturbella’ worm, whose Latin name means strange flatworm, derive from a common ancestor, thereby placing Xenoturbella in the same division of the animal kingdom as man." I think all this says is that we actually know far less than we make out to know, and to draw conclusions from our lack of knowledge is stupid to say the least.

      Grant - 2012-06-14 19:59

      Furthermore we would expect good coding to be used in multiple programs that do the same thing (barring copyright), equally same coding of the genome would be as much a characteristic of a good designer as it would at showing evolution - just depends what your starting point is - so Mememan this article does not point towards evolution at all.

      Mark - 2012-06-14 20:34

      @noChimp - You have come to some mighty big conclusions yourself. Cloud9 must be very nice and comfy that it blinds you to reality.

      Grant - 2012-06-14 21:16

      @mark - amazing, when you know you are wrong, the best thing is to ignore the facts and attack the person - well done!!

      Grant - 2012-06-15 22:30

      Well done mememan, you have excelled at your ignorance yet once again; could not refute what I said, so had to try every book to try and get a side track, including Titan's lake. Please do a bit of research and try prober refutes next time!!

  • crracker.crackerr - 2012-06-15 22:55

    Back to plain basics. Let's keep it simple. What is the alternative being proposed to evolution? The bible? Cast your thoughts back about 1600 years ago. There was that huge fight and disagreement about what the various religious writings were exactly all about. And so they assembled. The wise men as if they were the final and only wise ones in history and the rest of us had to just follow notwithstanding that later developments would disprove/cast serious doubt on the assumptions of the bible. Mmmmmm. Some things just don't seem in place, or if they do, they were deliberately planted to mislead much of humanity into disbelieving what the religionists say we should believe. It is silly. Silliness is an inherent human disease it seems, well OK. Let's confine it to the religionists.

      grant.sher.1 - 2012-06-16 07:46

      @Crack - doesn't matter how you swing it, evolution does not work. So you have to look at the alternatives; and just because you do not like the alternatives, does not mean they are wrong, the real question is "are you willing to go where truth leads, no matter what the cost to you and your ideas", or are you like the bulk who only want pseudotruth, that which looks true and fits in with the crowd

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