Orangutans are the largest arboreal animals in the world and spend the vast majority of their time in the rainforest canopy. They eat, sleep, breed and give birth, sometimes hundreds of feet above the ground.
By Jon Cohen Jan. Researchers have just completed the sequencing of the entire genome of our orange-haired relative, and they have found to their surprise that its DNA has changed much less dramatically over time than has that of humans or chimpanzees.
Louis, Missouri, who headed the orangutan sequencing project. The orangutan genome had one other big surprise. Locke and colleagues sequenced six Sumatran and five Bornean orangutans, which are classified as different species. The apes have been physically separated for at least 21, years—the last time land bridges between the two islands existed—and earlier studies estimated that they became distinct species more than 1 million years ago.
But the new analysis, reported online today in Nature, rewrites history: Orangutans originated some 12 million to 16 million years ago, giving their genomes much more time to evolve than those of humans and chimpanzees, which split into their own lineages 5 million to 6 million years ago.
But a comparison of the three genomes shows that humans and chimpanzees lose or gain new genes at twice the rate of orangutans. The reason may have to do with stretches of DNA called retrotransposons. These key drivers of evolution jump around the genome, creating new genes, crippling existing ones, or altering gene regulation.
The new data reveal that common retrotransposons known as Alu elements have moved around the orangutan genome much less than they have in the human and chimpanzee genomes. The researchers also discovered that, over time, the structure of orangutan chromosomes has changed little, which may be linked to the Alu element finding.
Other researchers have suggested that the robust structural variation in humans and chimps may have spurred increased intelligence.
But Locke notes that orangutans are also highly intelligent. A separate but related study published today in Genome Research reports yet another unexpected finding from a comparison of the three great ape genomes.
A team led by Mikkel H. Schierup and Thomas Mailund of Aarhus University in Denmark both co-authors of the Nature report discovered that some regions of the human genome more closely resemble the orangutan than the chimpanzee.
This reflects the fact that at the time humans split off from a common ancestor with chimps, both species had the same ancestral orangutan DNA. But humans and chimpanzees have evolved separately for millions of years.
In the process, chimps for mysterious reasons lost some orangutan DNA that humans retained. More surprises are sure to come as researchers compare the genomes of even more apes.
Projects to sequence the other two great apes, gorillas and bonobos, are under way.The "great apes" are the bonobo, the chimpanzee, the gorilla, the orangutan, and the human being; The chimpanzee is our closest relative; Bonobos are were originally known as "pygmy chimpanzees" The orangutan is the largest arboreal animal, weighing about pounds and spending 90% of .
For both the chimpanzees and orangutans, feeding was defined as reaching, picking, handling, or chewing a food item, and these actions were included in the feeding rate.
The orangutan is probably the most intelligent of all of the great apes, especially if intelligence is measured by the ability to problem solve. The orangutans' unique locomotion also helps them reduce the time and energy needed to climb.
The more flexible a tree branch is, the more it will bend under an animal's weight. "That means they can lose height, and gaining height again is costly because you have to oppose gravity," points out Thorpe.
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s month-old Bornean orangutan infant, Redd, had a playdate with one of the zoo’s older orangutans, Bonnie, on August 7. Sep 18, · But worldwide I guess monkeys are overall the least endangered..
well especially since "monkeys" is a catch all phrase for many different species, .