Bonobos may have interbred with a mysterious spirit ape” hundreds and thousands of years ago.
Mysterious “ghost monkeys” interbred with the great apes known as bonobos, just as modern man repeatedly had sex with a now extinct human offspring, a new study found.
Bonobos are, with chimpanzees, humankind closest living relatives. Together, bonobos and chimpanzees are a part of the group in the Pan, just as the modern man and the extinct families of the people from the group Gay.
Recently, geneticists discovered that the ancestors of the modern human interbred with extinct human families such as the Neanderthals and the Denisovans. The DNA of such trysts, the impact of the modern man, of potential immune system strengthening to an increased risk for depression, obesity, heart attacks and nicotine addiction. [Photos: Bones of a Denisovan-Neanderthal-Hybrid]
Earlier research suggested that bonobos and chimpanzees may have interbred. For example, prior work found genes probably flowed from the bonobos from chimpanzees more than 200,000 years ago.
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By analyzing the genomes of 10 bonobos and 59 chimpanzees for the signs of the genes of unknown old groups, scientists have now discovered evidence that bonobos also had sex with a now-extinct monkey origin.
“We know that people have interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovans, and probably other archaic human populations, and it is interesting to see that happened with our closest living relatives as well,” said study lead author Martin Kuhlwilm, a population geneticist at the Biomedical Research Park of Barcelona, Spain.
The researchers looked for unusual patterns in the monkey was taken that the proposed old crosses with other lines. This included a yacht for long haplotypes, or sets of DNA sequences, that were seen in one species but not the other. The reasoning is that short haplotypes may be explained by a few chance mutations within these species, but relatively long haplotypes instead likely inherited from a significantly different gender.
Although this genetic contributions from crossbreeding decrease over time, remnants would still exist as shorter, unusual fragments. By looking at the length of this optical haplotypes, scientists can estimate how far back the interbreeding occurred.
By isolating the DNA from this “spirit ape,” the researchers said that they could reconstruct to 4.8 percent of the genome. They said the genes in these archaic fragments can have consequences for the functioning of the brain, the kidneys and the immune system of the bonobos. [8 Human-Like Behaviors of Primates]
Earlier research suggested that the ancestors of bonobos and chimpanzees diverged from each other at most about 2 million years ago, probably after the separation of the Congo River grew. In contrast, the scientists estimated this spirit ape diverged from the common ancestor of bonobos and chimpanzees about 3.3 million years ago.
“It is an extinct branch of the Pan family tree,” Kuhlwilm said.
The researchers suggest the rendezvouses between bonobos and the spirit of the monkeys happened somewhere between 377,000 and 637,000 a year ago. In contrast, they detected no signs that the chimpanzees ever interbred with a now extinct genera, perhaps because the Congo River, cut off chimps from other groups, Kuhlwilm said.
In the future, the researchers would like to look for signs of crosses within other great apes, Kuhlwilm said. The analyze of the apes can shed light on the extinct genera in the fossil record can probably not.
“We have absolutely nothing in terms of bonobo fossils,” Kuhlwilm said. “There’s a chimp fossil that is dug up that is maybe 400,000 years old, but that is actually for the African great apes. By the analysis of living apes, we can get information on the extinct populations of great apes that we can’t get ancient DNA, because there are almost no ancient monkey fossils.”
Bonobos are a species known for its debauchery. “We can speculate if that may have facilitated these interactions,” Kuhlwilm said.
The scientists detailed their findings online today (April 29) in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
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Originally published on Live Science.