. Earth Science News .

What have we got in common with a gorilla?
by Staff Writers
London, UK (SPX) Mar 15, 2012

File image.

A team of researchers have completed the genome sequence for the gorilla - the last genus of the living great apes to have its genome decoded. While confirming that our closest relative is the chimpanzee, the team show that much of the human genome more closely resembles the gorilla than it does the chimpanzee genome.

This is the first time scientists have been able to compare the genomes of all four living great apes: humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans. This study provides a unique perspective on our own origins and is an important resource for research into human evolution and biology, as well as for gorilla biology and conservation.

"The gorilla genome is important because it sheds light on the time when our ancestors diverged from our closest evolutionary cousins. It also lets us explore the similarities and differences between our genes and those of gorilla, the largest living primate," says Aylwyn Scally, first author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

"Using DNA from Kamilah, a female western lowland gorilla, we assembled a gorilla genome sequence and compared it with the genomes of the other great apes. We also sampled DNA sequences from other gorillas in order to explore genetic differences between gorilla species."

The team searched more than 11,000 genes in human, chimpanzee and gorilla for genetic changes important in evolution. Humans and chimpanzees are genetically closest to each other over most of the genome, but the team found many places where this is not the case. 15% of the human genome is closer to the gorilla genome than it is to chimpanzee, and 15% of the chimpanzee genome is closer to the gorilla than human.

In all three species, genes relating to sensory perception, hearing and brain development showed accelerated evolution - and particularly so in humans and gorillas.

"Our most significant findings reveal not only differences between the species reflecting millions of years of evolutionary divergence, but also similarities in parallel changes over time since their common ancestor," says Dr Chris Tyler-Smith, senior author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

"We found that gorillas share many parallel genetic changes with humans including the evolution of our hearing. Scientists had suggested that the rapid evolution of human hearing genes was linked to the evolution of language. Our results cast doubt on this, as hearing genes have evolved in gorillas at a similar rate to those in humans."

This research also illuminates the timing of splits between species. Although we commonly think of species diverging at a single point in time, this does not always reflect reality: species can separate over an extended period of time.

The team found that divergence of gorillas from humans and chimpanzees occurred around ten million years ago. The split between eastern and western gorillas was much more recent, in the last million years or so, and was gradual, although they are now genetically distinct. This split is comparable in some ways to the split between chimpanzees and bonobos, or modern humans and Neanderthals.

"Our research completes the genetic picture for overall comparisons of the great apes," says Dr Richard Durbin, senior author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, "After decades of debate, our genetic interpretations are now consistent with the fossil record and provide a way for palaeontologists and geneticists to work within the same framework.

"Our data are the last genetic piece we can gather for this puzzle: there are no other living great ape genera to study."

Gorillas survive today in just a few isolated and endangered populations in the equatorial forests of central Africa. They are severely threatened and their numbers are diminishing. This research not only informs us about human evolution, but highlights the importance of protecting and conserving the full diversity of these remarkable species.

Scally et al 'Insights into hominid evolution from the gorilla genome sequence'; Published in Nature March 8 DOI: 10.1038/nature10842.

Related Links
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
All About Human Beings and How We Got To Be Here

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Strong scientific evidence that eating berries benefits the brain
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 15, 2012
Strong scientific evidence exists that eating blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other berry fruits has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes, scientists report. Their new article on the value of eating berry fruits appears in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. In the article, Barbara Shukitt-Hale, Ph.D., and M ... read more

Butterfly molecule may aid quest for nuclear clean-up technology

Japan's nuclear disaster: a timeline

Japan strives to win back tourists

Meltdown intel emerges ahead of Japan anniversary

Apple looks to tighten tablet market grip with new iPad

AU Optronics to appeal US price-fixing verdict

PayPal lets shops take payments on smartphones

Russia to build space warning system

China to invest in water projects

The Blue Planet's new water budget

Mauritius, Seychelles to jointly manage Indian Ocean shelf

Oceans Acidifying Faster today Than in Past 300 Million Years

China to conduct Arctic expedition

S. Korean, Russian scientists bid to clone mammoth

NASA Finds Thickest Parts of Arctic Ice Cap Melting Faster

Greenland icesheet more vulnerable than thought to warming

Commonly used herbicides seen as threat to endangered butterflies

Auchan supermarkets reports profit rise on action in China

Myanmar soldiers shot dead China farmer: Beijing

World breakthrough on salt-tolerant wheat

Tropical Storm Irina kills three in Mozambique:official

Greek volcanic island shows activity

Small tsunami hits Japan after 6.9 quake

Effects of flooding on Cairo

Algeria conflict shapes US military strategy

Ethiopia says it has attacked Eritrean military base

G.Bissau security forces vote in presidential poll

Bloodhounds deployed to fight elephant poaching in DR Congo

Strong scientific evidence that eating berries benefits the brain

What have we got in common with a gorilla?

Knowledge gap widens gulf between South Asian nations

Human-like fossils in China caves puzzle scientists

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement