Researchers are producing a genetic map for chimpanzees to combat human trafficking

Researchers are producing a genetic map for chimpanzees to combat human trafficking

Researchers have now mapped the genomes of 828 wild chimpanzees from across Africa, using new sequencing techniques

Researchers have now mapped the genome of 828 wild chimpanzees from across Africa, using new sequencing techniques.

Researchers have developed the first genetic map of chimpanzees in the wild, which offers a detailed reconstruction of the endangered species’ previous migrations and a new tool to combat illegal trade.

The genomic catalog, which includes 828 individuals from their entire large African range, can now be used to link kidnapped chimpanzees – or their meat and body parts—To its place of origin within 100 kilometers.

The results of the year-long research project were published on Wednesday in the journal Cell genomics.

First author Claudia Fontsere from the Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Spain told AFP: “If we can know the genetic diversity of this Endangered speciesand its past demographic history … this can help shape a better conservation plan. “

DNA samples were collected from thousands of chimpanzee droppings as part of the Pan-African program at 48 locations in central and western Africa.

Fecal samples are a useful way to study endangered species as they allow for extensive collection with minimal disturbance to the animals.

But they also pose technical challenges because they only contain trace amounts of host DNA.

To overcome these limitations, the team used a new DNA sequencing technique called “target capture” which was first used to study Neanderthals whose remains have been degraded for thousands of years.

This allowed them to detect 50 percent more variants on a particular chromosome – number 21 – than previously found, and from this infer to earlier gene flow between chimpanzee populations, which closed gaps in scientific understanding.

Previously, only 59 whole chimpanzees had been sequenced, mainly from captive animals limited information about their origin.

Complex migrations

Like humans, chimpanzees have complex migration histories, and new research has enabled researchers to look back over the past 100,000 years at a new level of detail.

“There has been a lot of debate about whether the four chimpanzee subspecies really differed from each other or whether there has been a sustained gene flow between them,” co-author Mimi Arandjelovic of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology told AFP.

“We were able to show, using different analytical methods that look at very old and newer variations, that history is complex, much like our own species.”

The team found out that chimpanzee subspecies were separated in the past, but also experienced periods of genetic exchange – which helped explain why previous studies that attempted to reconstruct chimpanzees evolutionary history came to different conclusions.

They found that geographic barriers such as lakes and rivers also created genetic barriers between subspecies and between communities, and discovered new insights into periods when chimpanzees crossed with bonobo.

It is important that they confirmed that there was a high level of connection between Western chimpanzees, which underlines the need to preserve the connections between forests across West Africa, Arandjelovic said.

Fontsere explained that the genetic map could help point out where illegally trafficked chimpanzees had come from.

Although reintroducing chimpanzees into the wild is a difficult task due to the complex social structure of animals, research has shown that they do better when placed in a sanctuary near their place of origin.

“It can help judiciary to look at the more probable roads, we can trace it back, says Fontsere.

They then hope to improve the genetic map with more samples, and, after proving that fecal DNA is a viable alternative, expand its use to study other primates.


New method for locating the origin of illegally traded chimpanzees


More information:
Claudia Fontsere et al, Population dynamics and genetic connections in the history of the latest chimpanzee, Cell genomics (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.xgen.2022.100133 , www.cell.com/cell-genomics/ful… 2666-979X (22) 00062-3

© 2022 AFP

Quote: Researchers produce chimpanzee genetic map to combat trafficking (2022, June 5) retrieved June 5, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-scientists-chimp-genetic-combat-trafficking.html

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