Are bonobos and chimpanzees genetically different

Genome of the bonobo monkey deciphered: genetics explains social structure

The bonobo monkey genome was the last unknown genome of the great ape family. A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology - to which Ines Hellmann was also a member - has now deciphered it and found in sequence comparisons that around three percent of the genetic information of chimpanzees and bonobos is more similar to the human genome than the genomes of these great apes to each other.

Sex for relaxation
Bonobos and chimpanzees differ in a number of ways: for example, bonobos are more playful and chimpanzees are more aggressive. Bonobos are also known to have sex not only for procreation but also for relieving tension. In the social structure of the bonobos, the females stand above the males, which is the other way around with chimpanzees. All of these differences could have their cause in the genetic difference between chimpanzees and bonobos and thus also provide explanations for humans for the behavior in which we resemble chimpanzees or bonobos.

Genome gives clues about social structures
As a population geneticist at the University of Vienna, Ines Hellmann is particularly interested in how the social structure of a population is reflected in its genes. "On the basis of genetic information we can, for example, understand whether more females than males reproduce in a group of gorillas," says Hellmann and explains: "The silverback, as the dominant male, has offspring with most of the females in the group, while the other males do not. "Hellmann compared the diversity of gene sequences from sex-specific chromosomes - XX and XY - to the remaining chromosomes. All chromosomes change their gene sequence through the reproductive process over several generations. In the case of sex chromosomes, this happens through the unique XX / XY division between females and Males at different speeds: This effect can be used to determine in the genome how many females or males in a group have reproduced over several generations.

Bonobo's X chromosome is more diverse than expected
After deciphering the bonobo genome, Hellmann surprisingly found that the X chromosomes of bonobos show a high degree of variance: in bonobo populations, the fluctuation in the number of offspring in males is twice as high as in females. However, in bonobo groups - in contrast to gorillas - there is no dominant male that would explain this effect. "We don't yet know exactly why this is so," says Hellmann. "One explanation for our research results is that female bonobos move to a different bonobo group more often while males stay in the same group." Ines Hellmann remains on the trail of the riddle and wants to next analyze the diversity of the chimpanzee genome.

Max F. Perutz Laboratories (MFPL)
The Max F. Perutz Laboratories (MFPL) are a joint research and training center of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna on the Vienna Biocenter campus. At the MFPL, around 530 scientists from 40 nations work in over 60 research groups on basic research in the field of molecular biology.

Publication in "Nature"
The bonobo genome compared with the chimpanzee and human genomes: Kay Prüfer, Kasper Munch, Ines Hellmann, Keiko Akagi, Jason R. Miller, Brian Walenz, Sergey Koren, Granger Sutton, Chinnappa Kodira, Roger Winer, James R. Knight, James C Mullikin, Stephen J. Meader, Chris P. Ponting, Gerton Lunter, Saneyuki Higashino, Asger Hobolth, Julien Dutheil, Emre Karakoç, Can Alkan, Saba Sajjadian, Claudia Rita Catacchio, Mario Ventura, Tomas Marques-Bonet, Evan E. Eichler , et al. Nature (June 2012)
doi: 10.1038 / nature11128

Scientific contact
Ines Hellmann
Mathematical and Biosciences Group
Max F. Perutz Laboratories GmbH
Rennweg 95b
1030 Vienna
T +43 1 4277 24053
ines.hellmann (at) univie.ac.at

Consultation notice
Georg Bauer
Communications
Max F. Perutz Laboratories GmbH
Dr. Bohr-Gasse 9
1030 Vienna
T +43 1 4277 24003
georg.bauer (at) mfpl.ac.at

Scientific contact

Ines Hellmann

Max F. Perutz Laboratories GmbH
1030 - Vienna, Rennweg 95b
+43 1 4277 24053
[email protected]

Consultation notice

Georg Bauer

Communications
Max F. Perutz Laboratories
1030 - Vienna, Dr.-Bohr-Gasse 9
+43-1-4277-240 03
[email protected]

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