Genome of human relative bonobo studied

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 14 (UPI) -- U.S. and European researchers say they've sequenced the genome of the bonobo, a primate that along with chimpanzees, is the closest living relative of humans.

The findings should provide clues to the evolution of these closely related primates, Ohio State University researchers reported Wednesday.


"The findings will help scientists understand the evolutionary relationships between humans, chimpanzees and bonobos, and should help us learn more about the genetic basis for traits that humans share with these close relatives," OSU researcher David E. Symer said.

Unlike chimpanzees, which are aggressive by nature, bonobos tend to be peaceful, playful and highly sexual, the researchers said.

The research team, led by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, sequenced and assembled the genome of a female bonobo named Ulindi that lives in the Leipzig zoo.

More than 3 percent of the human genome is more closely related to either the bonobo or the chimpanzee than the two apes are to each other, researchers found, suggesting the three species share a complex evolutionary relationship.

The team studied transposons, often called "jumping genes" because they can move from one chromosomal location to another.


"These particular transposons inserted into the bonobo genome after they diverged from chimpanzees about a million years ago. They may be responsible for some of the key differences between bonobos, chimpanzees and humans, so we are continuing to study them," Symer said.

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