Evolution has changed many animal and plant species over time. These changes have gone down to the present time where the results could be seen with the present lifeforms. Interbreeding is one way for lifeforms to evolve, and scientists speculate that chimps with bonobo DNA hint of an ancient affair between the two species.
Scientists show that chimps and bonobos have interbred in the past, as bonobo DNA can be found in chimpanzees. Both chimpanzees and bonobos are endangered even though they are protected by conservation laws. Efforts are being made to ensure both species survive.
To preserve both chimpanzees and bonobos, scientists have begun extracting the genome sequence of 75 chimps and bonobos. This group come from 10 countries, and included in this group are 40 newborn chimpanzees. The newborn ones are crucial in preserving chimpanzee populations, according to Science Daily.
Chimpanzees and bonobos have become distinct hominid species around 1.6 million to 2 million years ago, as Science News reports. Even then both species are still closely related, in part because they have interbred. With the DNA extraction, it was found out that the two species have interbred in at least two occasions.
Scientists estimate that the first interbreeding took place from around 550,000 to 200,000 years ago. A second interbreeding episode happened around 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. Still, even with the interbreeding, chimpanzees have less than one percent of bonobo DNA.
Dr. Yali Xue from the Sanger Institute explained that central and eastern chimpanzees have more genetic material coming from bonobos than other chimpanzees. Although the two species have separated, it wasn't a total separation as for a period of time both species have come into contact to breed. The interbreeding though has not produced a new species coming from either hominid group.
"This is the largest analysis of chimpanzee genomes to date and shows that genetics can be used to locate quite precisely where in the wild a chimpanzee comes from," commented Dr. Chris Tyler Smith of the Wellcome Trust Institute.
With the study, it has shown that interbreeding between hominid species is possible. There has been speculation that homo sapiens have bred with Neanderthals and Denisovans, as an earlier report stated. The study shows then that chimps with bonobo DNA hint of an ancient affair between the two hominid species.