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Chimpanzees & Bonobos

October 31, 2016

Even though the Congo River keeps them apart today, chimpanzees and bonobos managed to interbreed several times in the past.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Chimpanzees through time. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Our closest living relatives are chimpanzees and their smaller cousins, bonobos. Despite behavioral differences, the two apes are very similar genetically. Now, a genetic analysis has revealed that long after the two species first diverged, they met up again and interbred several times, not unlike humans and our now-extinct relatives, Neanderthals.

CHRISTINA HVILSOM (Copenhagen Zoo):

The traces of bonobo in the common ancestor of central and eastern chimpanzee subspecies is 1%.

HIRSHON:

Copenhagen Zoo conservation geneticist Christina Hvilsom led the Science magazine study. She says the genome analysis will help wildlife officials trace confiscated animals back to the part of Africa they came from.

HVILSOM:

The​ ​number​ ​of chimpanzees​ ​in​ ​the​ ​wild​ ​is​ ​dropping​ ​dramatically.​ ​So​ ​we​ ​need​ ​to​ ​​do​ ​something​ ​now​ ​in​ ​order​ ​to preserve​ ​them​ ​for​ ​the​ ​future.​

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.