Friday, October 28, 2016

Chimps and bonobos had flings—and swapped genes—in the past

There has been a lot of evidence in recent years of species that have interbred with closely related species in their past.  A study was performed in order to compare the genomes of chimpanzees and bonobos in Africa in order to determine their evolutionary relationship.  Chimps and bonobos are closely related species that fall into the Great Apes group that humans are also a part of. This study was started due to the findings in 2010 that humans and Neandertals actually interbred in the past, causing genes to be shared and passed between species.
Picture of African Chimpanzee
Chimps and bonobos in Africa are mostly separated by the Congo River, so these species don't interact very often.  The Congo River may be a large factor that led to the speciation and split of these two animals and caused them to evolve independently.  However, genome tests concluded that the chimps actually had 1% of bonobo DNA in them.  This led the scientists to conclude that these two species had two separate interbreeding events in the past that led to the shared DNA.  These findings along with the discovery of Neandertal DNA in humans is helping to change the classical definition of a species.  More and more evidence has been showing that different species can in fact interbreeed to produce fertile offspring, and is changing the way that evolutionary relationships are being viewed between species.

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