Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What have we got in common with a gorilla? Insight into human evolution from gorilla genome sequence

Date:
March 7, 2012
Source:
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
Summary:
Scientists have sequenced the genome of the last great ape to have its genome decoded, the gorilla. 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.

Kamilah.
Credit: San Diego Zoo

Researchers have just 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.

Related Articles


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.

"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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Aylwyn Scally, Julien Y. Dutheil, LaDeana W. Hillier, Gregory E. Jordan, Ian Goodhead, Javier Herrero, Asger Hobolth, Tuuli Lappalainen, Thomas Mailund, Tomas Marques-Bonet, Shane McCarthy, Stephen H. Montgomery, Petra C. Schwalie, Y. Amy Tang, Michelle C. Ward, Yali Xue, Bryndis Yngvadottir, Can Alkan, Lars N. Andersen, Qasim Ayub, Edward V. Ball, Kathryn Beal, Brenda J. Bradley, Yuan Chen, Chris M. Clee, Stephen Fitzgerald, Tina A. Graves, Yong Gu, Paul Heath, Andreas Heger, Emre Karakoc, Anja Kolb-Kokocinski, Gavin K. Laird, Gerton Lunter, Stephen Meader, Matthew Mort, James C. Mullikin, Kasper Munch, Timothy D. O’Connor, Andrew D. Phillips, Javier Prado-Martinez, Anthony S. Rogers, Saba Sajjadian, Dominic Schmidt, Katy Shaw, Jared T. Simpson, Peter D. Stenson, Daniel J. Turner, Linda Vigilant, Albert J. Vilella, Weldon Whitener, Baoli Zhu, David N. Cooper, Pieter de Jong, Emmanouil T. Dermitzakis, Evan E. Eichler, Paul Flicek, Nick Goldman, Nicholas I. Mundy, Zemin Ning, Duncan T. Odom, Chris P. Ponting, Michael A. Quail, Oliver A. Ryder, Stephen M. Searle, Wesley C. Warren, Richard K. Wilson, Mikkel H. Schierup, Jane Rogers, Chris Tyler-Smith, Richard Durbin. Insights into hominid evolution from the gorilla genome sequence. Nature, 2012; 483 (7388): 169 DOI: 10.1038/nature10842

Cite This Page:

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. "What have we got in common with a gorilla? Insight into human evolution from gorilla genome sequence." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120307132210.htm>.
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. (2012, March 7). What have we got in common with a gorilla? Insight into human evolution from gorilla genome sequence. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120307132210.htm
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. "What have we got in common with a gorilla? Insight into human evolution from gorilla genome sequence." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120307132210.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) You've probably seen some weird-looking dinosaurs, but have you ever seen one this weird? It's worth a look. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins