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An international team of scientists recently created the world’s largest wild chimpanzee genomic catalog by sequencing DNA from the animals’ excrement, according to Zenger News.
In their paper, researchers explained how they gathered genomic data from more than 800 chimp fecal samples, a process that poses “technical difficulties.”
But it was necessary, they explained: Studying the genetic history of ancient chimpanzees is challenging because the ape species lived primarily in woodlands and forests, making it difficult for scientists to find preserved remains to use for genetic studies.
Now, the new DNA map could reveal a lot about the species’ evolutionary past, including their migratory patterns going back 100,000 years.
“Chimpanzees, like humans, have a complex evolutionary history,” said co-author Mimi Arandjelovic. “Their dynamics and areas of past and current population contact must be clearly identified in order to contribute to the protection of this endangered species.”
Currently, chimpanzees are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
But most importantly, the researchers said the findings can play an integral role in the conservation, as well as preventing the illegal trafficking of chimps.
“The ability to accurately determine the origin of chimpanzees has direct applications for their conservation, such as detecting the places where their poaching might be concentrated and identifying the routes and origins of illegal chimpanzee trafficking,” the authors said.