Comparison of the genomes of all four living great apes – humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans – has been undertaken by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK.
Gorilla DNA was compared to that of humans
DNA from Kamilah, a female western lowland gorilla, not to be confused with Camilla, a royal Britain, was studied to determine what humans have in common with the animal. Humans share many elements of their anatomy and physiology with both gorillas and chimpanzees. Molecular studies confirmed that we are closer to the African apes than to orangutans, closer still to chimpanzees. However, much of the human genome is more like that of the gorilla than the chimp according to the study.
Scientists found that divergence of gorillas from humans and chimpanzees occurred around ten million years ago. The research is deemed an important resource for studying gorilla and human biology and a tool towards conservation of the largest living primate. Only a small number of the endangered animals survive in a few isolated areas in the equatorial forests of central Africa.
The team also investigated the genetic differences between gorilla species. In addition to Kamilah in the San Diego Zoo, study subjects included two western lowland gorillas, a male, Kwanza and female, EB(JC), and one male eastern lowland gorilla, Mukisi.
A protein variant that may be the cause of inherited disease in humans is the only version found in all three gorillas. Examples are a dementia – associated variant and a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – associated variant that were corroborated by additional capillary sequencing. The researchers said they did not know why variants that appear to cause disease in humans might be associated with a normal phenotype in gorillas.
Searching through 11,000 genes in the three species, human, chimpanzee and gorilla, Aylwyn Scally, first author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute said, "The gorilla genome is important because it sheds light on the time when our ancestors diverged from our closest evolutionary cousins." It also may shed light on our future.
"Our most significant findings reveal not only differences between the species reflecting millions of years of evolutionary divergence," according to Dr Chris Tyler-Smith, senior author.
The team discerned that divergence of gorillas from humans and chimpanzees occurred around ten million years ago. Findings also revealed "similarities in parallel changes over time since their common ancestor."
Skulls of extinct Homo species differ from modern Homo Sapiens
Since the middle Miocene, the evolutionary story of apes consists of fragmentation and extinction per the Handbook of Palaeoanthropology Vol. 2, Primate Evolution and Human Origins by D.R. Begun. Humans share the genetic affect of previous population crises. As Homo Sapiens, we are the only surviving branch of the genus Homo. Neanderthals, and all others, are now extinct. Something to think about.