Meet Your Cousin, the Bonobo

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology has issued this press release: Bonobo genome completed. It says, with bold font added by us:

In a project led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, an international team of scientists has completed the sequencing and analysis of the genome of the last great ape, the bonobo.

They mean it’s the last great ape to have its genome sequenced. The press release continues:

Bonobos, which together with chimpanzees are the closest living relatives of humans, are known for their peaceful, playful and sexual behaviour that contrasts with the more aggressive behaviour of chimpanzees.

Wikipedia’s article on the Bonobo is a bit more specific. It says:

The bonobo is popularly known for its high levels of sexual behavior. Sex functions in conflict appeasement, affection, social status, excitement, and stress reduction. It occurs in virtually all partner combinations and in a variety of positions.

Well, [* blush *] that’s more than we needed to know. But if you care about such things, that Wikipedia article has a whole section devoted to the subject. Your Curmudgeon, of course, didn’t read it. Let’s return to the press release:

Genome sequences have also been generated from all other great apes – chimpanzee, orang-utan and gorilla – making this the final genome of a great ape to be sequenced and providing insights into their relationships with one another and with humans.

The creationists will be turning purple when they read that. We continue:

The comparison of the genome sequences of bonobo, chimpanzee, and human show that humans differ by approximately 1.3% from both bonobo and chimpanzee. Chimpanzees and bonobos are more closely related, differing by only 0.4%.

We’re obviously not identical to chimps and bonobos, but you gotta admit, being only 1.3% different is pretty close. We are either the result of drastic cost-cutting in the intelligent designer’s workshop, or else they’re our kin. Here’s more:

Bonobo and chimpanzee territories in central Africa are close to one another and separated only by the Congo River. It has been hypothesized that the formation of the Congo River separated the ancestors of chimpanzees and bonobos, leading to these distinct apes.

Wikipedia says the chimps are on the north side of the river, and bonobos are found on the south side. Moving along:

Despite the fact that on average the genomes of bonobos and chimpanzees are equally distant from human, analysis of the genome sequence of the bonobo revealed that for some particular parts of the genome, humans are closer to bonobos than to chimpanzees, while in other regions the human genome is closer to chimpanzees.

Your Curmudgeon has known some ladies who, shall we say, seen to favor one side of the family more than another — but that’s way off topic. Anyway, it’s nice to have another group of cousins we now know so much about. As they say, it’s all in the family.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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4 responses to “Meet Your Cousin, the Bonobo

  1. retiredsciguy

    Wikipedia informs, “The bonobo is popularly known for its high levels of sexual behavior.”

    Wonder if that explains why we don’t see too many bonobo exhibits in zoos? “Mommy, what are those monkeys doing? Oh, look! There’s two more over there doing the same thing! Gee! They look like they’re really having fun, don’t they, Mommy?”

  2. aturingtest

    RSG: When I was in the Navy, I visited the zoo in San Diego when I was stationed there. And I actually saw something like what you describe- only it was giraffes, and a couple of very confused looking old ladies watching. I couldn’t decide which was funnier.

  3. retiredsciguy

    aturingtest, there can’t be many people who have witnessed what you have seen. You are truly one of the select few! What’s next, whales?

  4. aturingtest

    RSG: Well, whales are kinda sexy, you know? I mean, have you ever seen the way a whale- oops. Never mind.