Are we more closely related to bonobos or chimps?

It has always been generally accepted that chimpanzees are our closet relatives, but recent genome sequencing has shown this may not be the case. The common ancestor humans, chimps, and bonobos share, split away around 4.5 million years ago before developing into humans. Fast-forward to around two million years ago and the remaining primates were separated by the Congo River. Just one million years ago these two populations were distinct enough to be separate species after evolving separately for one million years.

In this time chimpanzees became famously aggressive, tearing through the jungle in marauding groups and terrorising rival groups, whereas bonobos went in the opposite direction, living in a democratic society, all working for the good of the group and solving disputes through making love instead of war.

It turns out that, after studying the bonobo genome, there are portions of our DNA more similar to bonobos, and other parts more similar to a chimpanzee. So although we would probably like to think of ourselves as having more in common with the peaceful primates, we share around 98.7 per cent of our DNA with both.


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