Category Archives: Primatology

Mapping of Bonobo Chimpanzee Genetic Code Reveals More About (Us) Humans

Bonobos at the Cincinnati Zoo (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Scientists have recently mapped and published the genetic code of the Bonobo Chimpanzee (Pan paniscus); our closely related primate cousins. Bonobo Chimps, sometimes called pygmy or gracile chimpanzees, share 98.7% of their DNA with human beings (on par with the common chimpanzee, Pan troglodytesThe two species of chimpanzee share more than 99% of their genetic code, but have clearly distinct social constructions and inherent behaviors.

Common chimpanzees are characterized by not only their intelligence, but their often violent (sometimes inexplicably so) behavior. Whereas their primate “siblings,” Bonobos, are inherently peaceful, egalitarian, and matriarchal (the only group of great apes with a female-focal social construct).

Scientists hope that these new genetic revelations will help us to understand concepts of ‘inherently human’ behavior – specifically concepts of empathy, cooperation, and peaceful negotiation (all behaviors human beings can and do express).

“If you look at bonobos, chimpanzees and humans, what you can see is that there are some specific characteristics that we share with both of them.”

Scientists hope to study the genetic distinctions to help understand what is inherent versus learned social behavior that we may have genetically inherited from our distant, primate ancestors. To learn more about this research, see the articles: “‘Hippie Chimp’ DNA may shed light on our Dark Side” at MSNBC and Bonobo’s Genetic Code Laid Bare at the BBC.

Chimpanzees Can Display Altruism

New recent on the behavior of chimpanzees demonstrates that our closest living relatives do in fact display altruistic behavior. Previously, primatologists believed that chimpanzees solely demonstrated behavior for self-serving ends. However, recent behavioral models have shown that the great apes take into account the feelings and needs of others in the group.

 “All studies with wild chimpanzees have amply documented that they share meat and other food abundantly, that they help one another in highly risky situations, like when facing predators or neighboring communities, and adopt needing orphans.” — Christopher Boesche to Discovery News.

These findings also shed an interesting light on the existence and development of altruistic behaviors amongst humans and the role it played in our evolutionary and social progression. To learn more about these findings and the future of these research models, see this article in Discovery News or at MSNBC.

 

Paleoanthropologists Uncover 20 Million Year Old Hominid Fossil

A team of Ugandan and French Paleoanthropologists have uncovered the remains of a 20 million year old Hominid Fossil in Uganda. The find is especially important as the skull is nearly complete – a rarity in fossilized remains.

“This is the first time that the complete skull of an ape of this age has been found. It is a highly important fossil,” Martin Pickford, a paleontologist from the College de France in Paris, told a news conference.

The skull was identified as belonging to a Ugandapithecus Major, an early relative to the great apes that inhabited the region. The early ape had a skull roughly the size of a chimpanzee, a highly intelligent primate. To read more about the find, read one of the articles at Discovery News, MSNBC, Daily Mail, or BBC News.

 

 

Leading Killer of Gorillas in Zoos – Heart Disease

Learned something new and alarming today – the #1 killer of Gorillas in Captivity is heart disease. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that our close cousins are subject to the same ailments that we are and Zoos are notorious for over-feeding their animals (keeping a while animal sedate can be accomplished with keeping them more than full) and providing very little physical activity – then again, not sure that I want to ‘exercise’ a Tiger.

Zoologists at Cleveland’s Metroparks Zoo are trying to combat this issue by changing the primates’ diet – exchanging starchy carbs for fiber rich greens. Read more about this process at National Geographic. Thanks to the Leaky Foundation for sharing this on Twitter (follow them on Twitter – @LeakyFoundation).