Scientists crack bonobo genetic code

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 HandsFeet890 2012-06-14 08:29:54 AM
Next time an alien species will be closest to Man's closes living relatives. Enough said.
Zing 2012-06-14 08:49:42 AM
Great - great - great - great Grandpa!
mpho.j.mosia 2012-06-14 11:09:37 AM
bonobos have sex for fun...that's the only thing i got from this
DanielDennet 2012-06-14 12:36:46 PM
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 01:49:08 PM
Lol Bonobos are porn stars...
Ntshediseng Ntsane 2012-06-14 02:13:48 PM
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.
noChimp 2012-06-14 06:38:48 PM
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.
Crracker 2012-06-15 10:55:05 PM
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.