For just the second time in recorded history, researchers at Kyoto University in Japan have found a genetic disorder similar to Down Syndrome in a chimpanzee.
The chimp, named Kanako, has a third copy of chromosome 22. In humans who have Down Syndrome, it's a third copy of chromosome 21.
Kanaka has been blind since the age of 7 (she's 24 now), has congenital heart disease, and has underdeveloped teeth.
Kanako's condition has many similarities to humans with Down Syndrome, which can often result in slowed growth, intellectual setbacks, and cross-eyes.
The last case to be documented in chimpanzees was back in 1969. The chimp only lived to be two years old. So the fact that Kanako is 24 years old means there is a lot of research to be done.
Researchers only found out about Kanakos' condition in 2014 when she was undergoing a routine exam. There was a hole in the wall between the chambers of her heart, which prompted researchers to do a chromosome analysis.
Kanako has a hard time forming relationships with other chimpanzees due to her blindness, because it makes it unsafe for her to be around other animals. However, she has one friend named Ronan whom she sees once in a while.
Researchers at the Kumamoto Sanctuary, where Kanako has lived all her life, are still unsure as to just how set back the chimp's intellectual development is.
"However, the lack of abnormalities noted in her daily caretaking before the age of one, except for neonatal inactivity and limp limbs, suggests that there was no severe retardation in her behavioral development," said Satoshi Hirata, lead scientist behind a new study on Kanako, in a statement. "Given that around 500 chimpanzees have been born in captivity in Japan, the probability of this autosomal trisomy in chimpanzees may be comparable to that of trisomy 21 in humans, which occurs in up to 1 in 600 births."
Stories like this remind us that there are still so many unknowns in the animal kingdom, and that often we are closer to animals in genetic make-up than we think!