Copenhagen Zoo

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen Zoo

Copenhagen, Denmark
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Abel Nielsen S.C.,Copenhagen University | Mourier T.,Copenhagen University | Baandrup U.,University of Aalborg | Soland T.M.,Copenhagen Zoo | And 5 more authors.
Emerging Infectious Diseases | Year: 2012

In 2010, a chimpanzee died at Copenhagen Zoo following an outbreak of respiratory disease among chimpanzees in the zoo. Identification of coxsackie B3 virus, a common human pathogen, as the causative agent, and its severe manifestation, raise questions about pathogenicity and transmissibility among humans and other primates.


News Article | October 27, 2016
Site: www.sciencemag.org

Tens of thousands of years ago, modern humans slept around with Neandertals and swapped some genes. Now, it turns out one of our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, also dallied with another species. New research reveals that chimps mixed it up with bonobos at least twice during the 2 million years since these great apes started evolving their own identities. Although it’s not yet clear whether the acquired genes were ultimately beneficial or harmful, the finding strengthens the idea that such cross-species mating played an important role in the evolution of the great apes. "What they found was really cool," says Michael Arnold, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Georgia in Athens who was not involved in the work. "It adds to a growing body of work showing that species exchange genes," says Peter Grant, an evolutionary biologist from Princeton University who was also not involved with the study. Bonobos (Pan paniscus) live in Democratic Republic of the Congo, just across the Congo River from their closest living relatives, the chimpanzees (P. troglodytes), who are spread out between western and central Africa. (Chimps are bigger and have a male-dominated society instead of a female-dominated one.) Populations of both apes are shrinking because of deforestation and hunting. Chimps now live in fragmented populations that have become different enough to qualify as four subspecies; the western, eastern, and Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees are much less common than the central chimpanzees. Before the 1930s, bonobos were considered a subspecies of chimp as well and were called pygmy chimps, but researchers decided based on physical differences that these smaller apes are distinctive enough to warrant separate species status. Although in the classical view species are not supposed to be able to interbreed successfully, that was and still is not always true of bonobos and chimpanzees, says Christina Hvilsom, a conservation geneticist at the Copenhagen Zoo. She and her colleagues uncovered this liaison when they examined the complete genomes of 75 chimps and bonobos from 10 African countries. They had been comparing as many great ape genomes as possible in order to help conserve the animals: They sought genetic differences that could help pinpoint the geographic origin of a confiscated ape and so identify where illegal hunting occurred. But Hvilsom was also intrigued by the discovery in 2010 of Neandertal DNA in the human genome. She wanted to see whether humans' closest relatives also dallied beyond species boundaries. Using the same tests that uncovered hybridization among humans, she and her colleagues determined that 1% of the central chimpanzee’s genome is bonobo DNA. The genetic analysis indicates that this inbreeding happened during two time periods: 1.5 million years ago bonobo ancestors mixed with the ancestor of the eastern and central chimps. Then, just 200,000 years ago, central chimps got another boost of bonobo genes, the team reports today in . In contrast, the western chimp subspecies has no bonobo DNA, the researchers note, suggesting that only those chimps living close to the Congo River entertained bonobo consorts. That chimps have a trace of bonobo DNA suggests getting together was a challenge for the two species. "Neither of them like swimming, so the Congo River is a major barrier," Mallet says. (Up to 4% of human DNA today came from extinct relatives.) These findings come on the heels of other genome analyses—such as between coyotes, dogs, and wolves—showing such gene flow between species. "The more we look at genomes, the more it seems to be found," Mallet says. "It's going to be pretty common," he predicts. The chimp-bonobo results help "us to understand the nature of speciation," says A. Rus Hoelzel, an evolutionary biologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom. How two species form depends on whether the environment encourages their separation, whether the dividing populations are big enough to survive on their own, and other factors. “When those things change, the path to speciation may also change, or potentially even reverse." Because there’s so little bonobo DNA in the chimps, Hvilsom and her colleagues suggest that for chimps, the bonobo genes were disadvantageous. But Arnold thinks that once more analyses are done, the researchers will find that at least some of the acquired DNA was beneficial, just as certain genes for immunity and high-altitude survival, obtained from other human species, were for us. And Mallet wonders whether there was a ménage à trois of sorts between the ancestors of chimps, bonobos, and humans in the distant past. There are some suggestive similarities: Both chimps and bonobos have some very humanlike behaviors, the former engaging in warfare and the latter being known for their playfulness, he says, and there may be other shared traits as well. There could be other explanations for these shared traits, but, he adds, early in human evolution, "It's possible there was gene flow between all three species.”


News Article | October 28, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

Chimpanzees and bonobos are two species separated by about 2 million years and one impassible river that divides their range. New research, however, reveals that these two great-ape species mixed their genes in the ancient past. In at least two separate events, about 200,000 and 500,000 years ago, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) interbred with bonobos (Pan paniscus), researchers report today (Oct. 27) in the journal Science. Chimps and bonobos split off from a common ancestor between 1.5 million and 2 million years ago, and the two species share about 99.6 percent of their DNA, making them close relatives. (Shared DNA doesn't necessarily translate to the ability to interbreed; humans and chimpanzees also share about 99 percent of their DNA.) The finding echoes the recent discoveries that ancient humans sometimes interbred with their close relatives Neanderthals and Denisovans, said study co-author Christina Hvilsom, who studies great-ape genetics and conservation at the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark. The chimp-bonobo breeding happened much longer ago than human-Neanderthal liaisons, which started around 50,000 years ago. Hvilsom and her colleagues launched their study by sequencing whole genomes of 65 wild chimpanzees from across their range in equatorial Africa, as well as 10 bonobos. Bonobos live only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, separated from their chimp cousins by the Congo River. The river is a daunting barrier to interbreeding today. "They are terrible swimmers — both bonobos and chimpanzees," Hvilsom told Live Science. "They drown." The two species do sometimes interbreed in captivity, but they've never been known to breed together in the wild. Hvilsom and her colleagues weren't looking for evidence of amorous apes, though. Rather, they were interested in finding out if the genomes of chimpanzees and bonobos hold enough information to link a specific genetic profile to a geographical range. That way, they could trace apes that have been confiscated from black-market trade and return them to their correct home in the wild. "It's a fantastic tool in the conservation toolbox," Hvilsom said. [8 Human-Like Behaviors of Primates] To the researchers' delight, they were able to distinguish the geographical origin of individual chimpanzees from their DNA; those animals from the central and eastern parts of their range showed particularly distinct DNA. Broader sampling will be needed to more precisely pinpoint chimpanzees from Nigeria, Cameroon and the western portion of the range, the researchers wrote in Science. "The current trend is toward extinction" of chimps and bonobos because of illegal trafficking and deforestation, Hvilsom said. "It is important that each time we have a live chimpanzee confiscated, we can send it back to the place where it came from in nature." In the course of this conservation research, though, surprising signs of bonobo genes in chimpanzee genomes kept turning up. At first, the team thought the results were an error, Hvilsom said. But as they continued their research with different genetic approaches], they realized they were observing something real. The climate has varied over the 1.5 million to 2 million years since chimpanzees and bonobos split from their last common ancestor. The instances when the two species met up to mingle after that must have been times when parts of the Congo River were shallow and narrow, Hvilsom said. In an editorial accompanying the study, A. Rus Hoelzel, a molecular ecologist at Durham University in the U.K., explained some of the climate shifts. "This secondary contact was occurring during a period when the tropical African environment was changing through the Pleistocene epoch," Hoelzel wrote. "For example, from ~900,000 to 600,000 years ago, the longer glacial periods were cool and humid, interspersed with relatively brief hot and dry interglacial periods. By ~200,000 years ago, the glacial periods had become cold and dry, and the interglacials hot and humid." The chance finding contributes to the ongoing debate in biology about how to define speciation and the moment when a species splits, or "speciates," Hvilsom said. "We really need to take into consideration that interbreeding is something that could happen between species during their period of speciation," she said.


Mosbacher J.B.,University of Aarhus | Michelsen A.,Copenhagen University | Stelvig M.,Copenhagen Zoo | Hendrichsen D.K.,Norwegian Institute for Nature Research | Schmidt N.M.,University of Aarhus
PLoS ONE | Year: 2016

The nutritional state of animals is tightly linked to the ambient environment, and for northern ungulates the state strongly influences vital population demographics, such as pregnancy rates. Continuously growing tissues, such as hair, can be viewed as dietary records of animals over longer temporal scales. Using sequential data on nitrogen stable isotopes (δ15N) in muskox guard hairs from ten individuals in high arctic Northeast Greenland, we were able to reconstruct the dietary history of muskoxen over approximately 2.5 years with a high temporal resolution of app. 9 days. The dietary chronology included almost three full summer and winter periods. The diet showed strong intra- and inter-annual seasonality, and was significantly linked to changes in local environmental conditions (temperature and snow depth). The summer diets were highly similar across years, reflecting a graminoid-dominated diet. In contrast, winter diets were markedly different between years, a pattern apparently linked to snow conditions. Snow-rich winters had markedly higher δ15N values than snow-poor winters, indicating that muskoxen had limited access to forage, and relied more heavily on their body stores. Due to the close link between body stores and calf production in northern ungulates, the dietary winter signals could eventually serve as an indicator of calf production the following spring. Our study opens the field for further studies and longer chronologies to test such links. The method of sequential stable isotope analysis of guard hairs thus constitutes a promising candidate for population-level monitoring of animals in remote, arctic areas. Copyright: © 2016 Mosbacher et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


PubMed | University of Aarhus, Copenhagen Zoo, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and Copenhagen University
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2016

The nutritional state of animals is tightly linked to the ambient environment, and for northern ungulates the state strongly influences vital population demographics, such as pregnancy rates. Continuously growing tissues, such as hair, can be viewed as dietary records of animals over longer temporal scales. Using sequential data on nitrogen stable isotopes (15N) in muskox guard hairs from ten individuals in high arctic Northeast Greenland, we were able to reconstruct the dietary history of muskoxen over approximately 2.5 years with a high temporal resolution of app. 9 days. The dietary chronology included almost three full summer and winter periods. The diet showed strong intra- and inter-annual seasonality, and was significantly linked to changes in local environmental conditions (temperature and snow depth). The summer diets were highly similar across years, reflecting a graminoid-dominated diet. In contrast, winter diets were markedly different between years, a pattern apparently linked to snow conditions. Snow-rich winters had markedly higher 15N values than snow-poor winters, indicating that muskoxen had limited access to forage, and relied more heavily on their body stores. Due to the close link between body stores and calf production in northern ungulates, the dietary winter signals could eventually serve as an indicator of calf production the following spring. Our study opens the field for further studies and longer chronologies to test such links. The method of sequential stable isotope analysis of guard hairs thus constitutes a promising candidate for population-level monitoring of animals in remote, arctic areas.


The study also showed that genomics could help reveal the country of origin of individual chimpanzees, which has strong implications for chimpanzee conservation. Chimpanzees and bonobos are great apes found only in tropical Africa. They are endangered species and are supposedly fully protected by law, yet many chimpanzees and bonobos are captured and held illegally. To aid the conservation effort, researchers analysed the whole genome sequences of 75 chimpanzees and bonobos, from 10 African countries, and crucially included 40 new wild-born chimpanzees from known geographic locations. They discovered that there was a strong link between the genetic sequence of a chimpanzee, and their geographic origin. Dr Chris Tyler Smith, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: "This is the largest analysis of chimpanzee genomes to date and shows that genetics can be used to locate quite precisely where in the wild a chimpanzee comes from. This can aid the release of illegally captured chimpanzees back into the right place in the wild and provide key evidence for action against the captors." Chimpanzees and bonobos are the closest living relatives of human beings. They diverged from a common ancestor between 1.5 and 2 million years ago and live in different areas of tropical Africa. Until now, it was thought that gene flow between the species would have been impossible, as they were physically separated by the Congo River. The study confirmed a main separation between chimpanzees and bonobos approximately 1.5 million years ago, and the presence of four chimpanzee subspecies in different regions. However, the researchers also found there were two additional gene flow events between the chimpanzee and bonobo populations, indicating that at least some individuals found their way across the river. Dr Yali Xue, from the Sanger Institute, said: "We found that central and eastern chimpanzees share significantly more genetic material with bonobos than the other chimpanzee subspecies. These chimpanzees have at least 1% of their genomes derived from bonobos. This shows that there wasn't a clean separation, but that the initial divergence was followed by occasional episodes of mixing between the species. The study also included researchers from Spain, Copenhagen Zoo and the University of Cambridge and showed that there have been at least two phases of secondary contact, 200-550 thousand years ago and around 150 thousand years ago, mirroring what is believed to have happened during the last 100 thousand years of the evolution of humans. Dr Tomàs Marquès-Bonet, leader of the study from the Institute of Biological Evolution (University Pompeu Fabra and CSIC), Barcelona, said: "This is the first study to reveal that ancient gene flow events happened amongst the living species closest to humans - the bonobos and chimpanzees. It implies that successful breeding between close species might have been actually widespread in the ancestors of humans and living apes."


News Article | October 27, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

For the first time, scientists have revealed ancient gene mixing between chimpanzees and bonobos, mankind's closest relatives, showing parallels with Neanderthal mixing in human ancestry. Published today in the journal Science, the study from scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and their international collaborators showed that 1% of chimpanzee genomes are derived from bonobos. The study also showed that genomics could help reveal the country of origin of individual chimpanzees, which has strong implications for chimpanzee conservation. Chimpanzees and bonobos are great apes found only in tropical Africa. They are endangered species and are supposedly fully protected by law, yet many chimpanzees and bonobos are captured and held illegally. To aid the conservation effort, researchers analysed the whole genome sequences of 75 chimpanzees and bonobos, from 10 African countries, and crucially included 40 new wild-born chimpanzees from known geographic locations. They discovered that there was a strong link between the genetic sequence of a chimpanzee, and their geographic origin. Dr Chris Tyler Smith, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: "This is the largest analysis of chimpanzee genomes to date and shows that genetics can be used to locate quite precisely where in the wild a chimpanzee comes from. This can aid the release of illegally captured chimpanzees back into the right place in the wild and provide key evidence for action against the captors." Chimpanzees and bonobos are the closest living relatives of human beings. They diverged from a common ancestor between 1.5 and 2 million years ago and live in different areas of tropical Africa. Until now, it was thought that gene flow between the species would have been impossible, as they were physically separated by the Congo River. The study confirmed a main separation between chimpanzees and bonobos approximately 1.5 million years ago, and the presence of four chimpanzee subspecies in different regions. However, the researchers also found there were two additional gene flow events between the chimpanzee and bonobo populations, indicating that at least some individuals found their way across the river. Dr Yali Xue, from the Sanger Institute, said: "We found that central and eastern chimpanzees share significantly more genetic material with bonobos than the other chimpanzee subspecies. These chimpanzees have at least 1% of their genomes derived from bonobos. This shows that there wasn't a clean separation, but that the initial divergence was followed by occasional episodes of mixing between the species. The study also included researchers from Spain, Copenhagen Zoo and the University of Cambridge and showed that there have been at least two phases of secondary contact, 200-550 thousand years ago and around 150 thousand years ago, mirroring what is believed to have happened during the last 100 thousand years of the evolution of humans. Dr Tomàs Marquès-Bonet, leader of the study from the Institute of Biological Evolution (University Pompeu Fabra and CSIC), Barcelona, said: "This is the first study to reveal that ancient gene flow events happened amongst the living species closest to humans - the bonobos and chimpanzees. It implies that successful breeding between close species might have been actually widespread in the ancestors of humans and living apes." The Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE) is a joint center between Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), and was created in 2008 in Barcelona. IBE researchers study the processes and mechanisms that generate biodiversity, including fields like genetics and molecular evolution, population biology, biology of complex systems and the recovery of ancient DNA. https:/ The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world's leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease. http://www. Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. We're a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark debate. http://www.


PubMed | University Pompeu Fabra, Copenhagen Zoo, Biomedical Primate Research Center, Center for Genomic Regulation and Zoologic
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2016

microRNAs are crucial post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression involved in a wide range of biological processes. Although microRNAs are highly conserved among species, the functional implications of existing lineage-specific changes and their role in determining differences between humans and other great apes have not been specifically addressed. We analyzed the recent evolutionary history of 1,595 human microRNAs by looking at their intra- and inter-species variation in great apes using high-coverage sequenced genomes of 82 individuals including gorillas, orangutans, bonobos, chimpanzees and humans. We explored the strength of purifying selection among microRNA regions and found that the seed and mature regions are under similar and stronger constraint than the precursor region. We further constructed a comprehensive catalogue of microRNA species-specific nucleotide substitutions among great apes and, for the first time, investigated the biological relevance that human-specific changes in microRNAs may have had in great ape evolution. Expression and functional analyses of four microRNAs (miR-299-3p, miR-503-3p, miR-508-3p and miR-541-3p) revealed that lineage-specific nucleotide substitutions and changes in the length of these microRNAs alter their expression as well as the repertoires of target genes and regulatory networks. We suggest that the studied molecular changes could have modified crucial microRNA functions shaping phenotypes that, ultimately, became human-specific. Our work provides a frame to study the impact that regulatory changes may have in the recent evolution of our species.


News Article | October 27, 2016
Site: www.newscientist.com

Chimpanzees and their relatives bonobos are closer than we thought. Bonobos seem to have donated genes to chimps at least twice in the roughly two million years since they last shared an ancestor. The two closely related apes have occasionally interbred in captivity, and bonobos are renowned for their free and easy sex life. But the finding that they interbred in the wild was unexpected. The two species split sometime between 1.5 and 2.1 million years ago, around the same time that the Congo River system formed. Wild bonobo populations are entirely contained in that river system, separated from two nearby subspecies of chimps, the eastern and central subspecies. Scientists assumed the river was an impenetrable barrier, says Christina Hvilsom from Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark, one of the researchers who worked on the genetic project. But it turns out that it must have been breached more than once – although it’s not clear how that happened. Hvilsom and her colleagues weren’t actually looking for genetic evidence of ancient interspecies erotica. They were mapping genetic markers that could be used to determine where illegally traded chimps came from so they could be returned to their homes in the wild. But when they compared the chimp genomes to those of bonobos, they found clear signs of bonobo genes. “We thought it was a mistake, but we kept seeing it,” says Hvilsom. The genetic evidence shows that a little less than 1 per cent of the chimpanzee genome came from bonobos, from one contact between 200,000 and 550,000 years ago and another, more recent one less than 200,000 years ago. It’s not yet clear whether the two episodes of gene flow happened at low levels over a long time or in discrete pulses. Humans also carry evidence of ancient interbreeding in our genome, in the form of DNA from our Neanderthal relatives. Hvilsom et al.’s study shows that we are not unique among our great-ape cousins in dallying with other branches of our family tree. “We know that interbreeding played a role in human evolution, and now we know it was important for the great apes too,” says Hvilsom. Tony Capra of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, says that scientists need to pay more attention to interbreeding when studying how new species arise. “We need to make sure our models are robust enough to account for events that don’t respect the traditional tree of life,” he says. Read more: Blasts from the past: The Soviet ape-man scandal; Sharing apes: what bonobos have in common with us


Thomsen A.F.,Copenhagen University | Nielsen J.B.,Copenhagen University | Hjulsager C.K.,Technical University of Denmark | Chriel M.,Technical University of Denmark | And 2 more authors.
Emerging Infectious Diseases | Year: 2015

To investigate aquatic bird bornavirus 1 in Europe, we examined 333 brains from hunter-killed geese in Denmark in 2014. Seven samples were positive by reverse transcription PCR and were 98.2%–99.8% identical; they were also 97.4%–98.1% identical to reference strains of aquatic bird bornavirus 1 from geese in North America. © 2015, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All rights reserved.

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