Recent study suggest Bonobos may be better representation of last common ancestor with humans than chimps

A new study of bonobos suggests they may be more closely linked to our ancestors than chimpanzees. This is the first study to compare the anatomy.

A new study examining the muscular system of bonobos has provided evidence that the species may be more closely linked to human ancestors than the common chimpanzee. Previous studies have suggested this theory at the molecular level, but this is the first study to compare the anatomy of the three species.

The common chimpanzee and bonobo are our closest living relatives, but there was very little known about the bonobo anatomy previous to this study.

Bernard Wood, professor of human origins at the GW Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology states:

"Bonobo muscles have changed least, which means they are the closest we can get to having a ‘living’ ancestor."

Scientists believe that modern human and chimpanzee/bonobo lineages split approximately 8 million years ago, with the bonobo and chimpanzee splitting 2 million years ago.

After their split, both of these apes developed different traits and physical characteristics, despite remaining close to each other geographically. Because of these differences, researchers have been interested to find out more about what those differences are and how they compare to humans.

The team behind this research studied the muscles of bonobos, which indicates how they physically function. They examined seven bonobos from the Antwerp Zoo that had died and were being preserved, including foetal, infant, adolescent, and adult individuals of both sexes. Bonobos are an endangered species and the researchers recognised that this was an extremely rare opportunity.

They discovered that bonobos are more closely related to the human anatomy than common chimpanzees, in the sense that their muscles have changed less than they have in common chimpanzees.

The researchers noted that having a clear understanding of what makes humans different from our closest living relatives might lead to new breakthroughs or understandings of human health.