06. Humans and Chimpanzees

Andrew Clark, Molecular Biology and Genetics, and Rasmus Nielsen, Biometrics, and colleagues at Celera Genomics found, in the most comprehensive gene-comparison project to date, that humans and chimpanzees, who are nearly 99 percent alike in genetic makeup, may be even more similar if it were not for evolutionary “lifestyle” changes. Their search for evidence of accelerated evolution and positive selection in the genetic history of humans and chimps revealed key differences in genes that are involved in the ability to sense and process information about odors; the ability to speak and understand language; digestion or food choices; long-bone growth; and hairiness. The study showed, for example, that some of the genes that enable humans to understand speech work not only in the brain, but are also involved in hearing. The difficulties in training chimps to understand speech may be attributed to their inadequate hearing. The research leads to many hypotheses that can be tested to yield more insight on exactly why 1 percent in DNA sequence difference makes humans and chimps so different.

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