Blood groups in the Species Survival Plan®, European endangered species program, and managed in situ populations of bonobo (Pan paniscus), common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), gorilla (Gorilla ssp.), and orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus ssp.)

Zoo Biol. 2011 Jul-Aug;30(4):427-44. doi: 10.1002/zoo.20348. Epub 2010 Sep 17.


Blood groups of humans and great apes have long been considered similar, although they are not interchangeable between species. In this study, human monoclonal antibody technology was used to assign human ABO blood groups to whole blood samples from great apes housed in North American and European zoos and in situ managed populations, as a practical means to assist blood transfusion situations for these species. From a subset of each of the species (bonobo, common chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutans), DNA sequence analysis was performed to determine blood group genotype. Bonobo and common chimpanzee populations were predominantly group A, which concurred with historic literature and was confirmed by genotyping. In agreement with historic literature, a smaller number of the common chimpanzees sampled were group O, although this O blood group was more often present in wild-origin animals as compared with zoo-born animals. Gorilla blood groups were inconclusive by monoclonal antibody techniques, and genetic studies were inconsistent with any known human blood group. As the genus and, specifically, the Bornean species, orangutans were identified with all human blood groups, including O, which had not been reported previously. Following this study, it was concluded that blood groups of bonobo, common chimpanzees, and some orangutans can be reliably assessed by human monoclonal antibody technology. However, this technique was not reliable for gorilla or orangutans other than those with blood group A. Even in those species with reliable blood group detection, blood transfusion preparation must include cross-matching to minimize adverse reactions for the patient.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Animals, Zoo
  • Blood Group Antigens
  • DNA / genetics
  • Endangered Species
  • Genotype
  • Hominidae / blood*
  • Hominidae / genetics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Species Specificity


  • Blood Group Antigens
  • DNA