Chimpanzees Essay

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Chimpanzee Droppings Lead Scientists to
Evolutionary Discovery by Erica F. Kosal, Biology Department, North Carolina Wesleyan College

Part I—Chimpanzee Behavior
Far in the remote western African jungles of Cameroon, Dr. Beatrice
Hahn and her team of scientists from the University of Alabama have been examining chimpanzee droppings. Members of the great ape family, chimpanzees typically travel in groups of  to  animals, forming smaller subgroups to forage during the day and then coming together again to sleep in trees at night. Communities lack a definite leader and are usually split into a number of subgroups, often when the animals go to forage. These subgroups (referred to as “fusion-fission groups”) are temporary and change in
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Using test tubes containing a preservative, the scientists collected  fecal samples from  forest sites and later analyzed them in Dr. Hahn’s laboratory.
The team was interested in tracing the evolution of hiv (human immunodeficiency virus) to investigate the origins of hiv/aids. There is a simian virus known as siv (simian immunodeficiency virus) that is closely related to hiv and has been found in  species of African primates, ranging from various species of monkey (e.g., Blue monkey, L’Hoest monkey) to mangabeys (e.g., red-capped mangabey), colobus, baboons, mandrills, and chimpanzees.
Both hiv and siv are considered to be retroviruses, containing rna instead of dna as their genetic material.
Because the virus must insert its genetic material into a host cell to take over that host cell, a retrovirus has to convert its rna back into dna form. Only after this “backstep” (hence the term “retro”) occurs, can the virus successfully insert its genetic material (now in dna form) into the host’s dna. rna is slightly different from dna. rna contains only one genetic strand, whereas dna is a doubly-stranded molecule. In addition, the sugars of these molecules are slightly different. dna contains the sugar deoxyribose while rna contains the sugar ribose. In both cases, the sugars act as the backbone for the molecule and provide a place for the bases to attach. The bases determine the order of amino acids and thus
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