It seems like the news hasn’t gobbled up this news as adamantly as it did the news of the bonobo reserve in the Congo, but it is nonetheless newsworthy and crucial to the study of bonobos. The Department of Evolutionary Anthropology at the Max Planck Institute put out a press release that they just acquired a second Genome Sequencer FLX (GS FLX) System from 454. Svante Pääbo, director of the department, plans to put this one to use in sequencing the bonobo genome.
I’ve seen two of these 454 devices in person, over at the JGI. These things are gnarly, and cost a lot of money. I was told that each time you wanna use one of the machines, the reagents alone cost thousands of dollars. I didn’t ask to see a purchase order or anything, but I believe them. These devices do big science, they sequence small fragments of DNA and help on constructing it and they do it well.
You maybe asking, “What good does a bonobo genome do for us? We got chimpanzee, macaque, human… and we’re getting Neandertal, gorilla, and gibbon!” Well exactly that, the more primate genomes we have the more information we can get when we compare the genomes to one another. For example, between the bonobo, chimp, Neandertal, and human genomes we can screen to see what genes are specific to modern humans and what genes are specific to chimpanzees. This is critical in understanding what makes us all different, since it is proposed we share so much together.
In related news, I’m happy to announce that the Sankuru Nature Reserve a 11,803 square miles will be created through a partnership involving American and Congolese conservation groups and government agencies to help preserve bonobos. Lots of press has covered this news, for example here’s the New York Times coverage. As you may know all great apes are severly threatened if not endangered.