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Genome Links Gorillas with Humans

Posted by on November 8, 2012

The link has been popularized and even exploited by many Hollywood motion pictures as well as fantastical tales of the similar personality characteristics humans share with gorillas. Dian Fossey probably said it best, and first, when she claimed gorillas are “highly social gentle giants.”

“Gorillas in the Mist” was published by Fossey in 1983 and remains one of the most evocative and exploratory works on the human nature of gorillas in the wild.

New evidence from genomic sequencing in Hinxton, England may prove that we share even more DNA than previously suspected. The famous scientific journal Nature has reported that genomic sequencing of a western lowland gorilla named Kamilah shows humans are more closely related to gorillas than chimpanzees. With 30 percent of the DNA uncovered, there are a number of shared genetic traits and characteristics, including disease, that can be linked to these genes.

While it may seem like old news that primates are closely related to humans, gorillas are the last of their genus to have their genome sequenced by professionals. Some of the most remarkable genes that we share with gorillas include those involved in frontotemporal dementia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

According to the report in Nature, humans and chimpanzees separated on the evolutionary tree around 6 million years ago. We are postulated to have separated from gorillas around 10 years ago. There are notable differences between eastern and western gorillas as well that occurred around the same time. Eastern and western gorillas continue to exchange DNA through mating practices.

Researchers are quick to point out that there is still much work to be done and that the next step will be to evaluate our link with the eastern gorilla as well. Further research into DNA information will help us learn more about diseases that affect us and not them or vice versa.

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