A new study has confirmed for the first time that interbreeding between chimpanzees and bonobos happened in the ancient past.

These two apes, found in tropical Africa are considered the closest relatives of mankind. This means the earlier concepts of strict genetic demarcation between the two are blurring.

It is believed that Chimpanzees and bonobos are diversified descendants of a common ancestor, separated some 2 million years ago.

The study also busted the myth that gene flow between the two species was impossible as the Congo River was a big physical barrier for them.

The new finding adds to the repertoire of other theories that include gene mixing between Neanderthals and humans.

Published in the journal Science, the findings asserted that one percent of chimpanzee genomes are indeed bonobos-derived.

Significant Contribution To Conservation

The study was conducted by scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and offers a significant contribution to conservation efforts.

It examined the whole genome sequences of 75 chimpanzees and bonobos belonging to 10 different African countries in which 40 were new-born chimpanzees from known geographies. The analysis established a clear linkage between genetic sequence of chimpanzees and their geographic origin.

The emphasis on segregating individual chimpanzees based on their country of origin will be a boost in returning captured chimps to their right places of origin

The leader of the study, Tomàs Marquès-Bonet from the Institute of Biological Evolution (University Pompeu Fabra and CSIC), Barcelona expressed that the study was unique.

He claimed it was the first study to reveal ancient gene flow process among the living species, which are closest to human evolution.

"It implies that successful breeding between close species might have been actually widespread in the ancestors of humans and living apes."

Chris Tyler-Smith, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said the largest analysis of chimpanzee genomes can precisely detect a wild chimpanzee's actual home.

That will certainly aid in the release of illegally captured chimpanzees and in sending them back to the right place.

As an endangered species, Chimpanzees and bonobos are facing threats of illegal capture and confinement despite protection by law .

Reflecting on the study's contribution to conservation efforts, Chris Tyler-Smith, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said the analysis of chimpanzee genomes would go a long way in locating precisely from where a chimpanzee has come.

It may be recalled that chimpanzees are an endangered species and in many places, they are illegally captured and confined. The genome analysis will come handy in releasing the chimps to their right habitat and in acting against predators by using the key evidence.

Yali Xue of the Sanger Institute said central and eastern chimpanzees share more genetic material with bonobos compared to other subspecies of chimpanzees.

Meanwhile, studies on the peer relation of chimps have thrown up interesting features, according to a report in Tech Times.

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