The first blueprint of the orangutan genetic code has confirmed that they share 97 per cent of their DNA with people.
Although that makes the red-haired apes less closely related to us than chimps - who have 99 per cent of DNA in common - a small portion of orangutan DNA is a closer match to human DNA, the international team of researchers found.
Wild thing: A juvenile orangutan in its native Borneo. DNA testing shows that the ape shares 97 per cent of our DNA
The study is the first time scientists have cracked the genetic code of the endangered great apes.
Researchers hope their findings will aid efforts to protect the species from extinction.
Today, only about 50,000 Bornean and 7,000 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild. Their numbers have been dwindling as a result of deforestation.
The scientists first sequenced the genome of a female Sumatran orangutan named Suzie.
Using her DNA as a 'reference' they then compared the results with the DNA from another five Sumatran and five Bornean orangutans.
They recorded around 13 million DNA variations in the apes and found the two species split around 400,000 years ago - much more recently than previously thought.
Common traits: Orangutans in captivity can take on some typically human behavioural traits such as drawing
Humans are generally less related to orangutans than chimpanzees, the research showed.
More...Ambam, the swaggering silverback gorilla who walks around his pen on two legs.
Chimps and people shared a common ancestor around five to seven million years ago.
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