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Gorilla conservation, yes… but conversation?!

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Years ago, it was established that the chimpanzee is the closest relative to human beings; after all, we split from them quite recently right, a mere 4-6million years back. Therefore it is astonishing to find that the newly-sequenced gorilla genome has thrown out an unexpected resemblance between us and the gorilla, with 15% of our genes bearing more resemblance with them than with the chimpanzee - in fact we share a massive 98% of genes.

For gorillas and their future safety, the insights this sequencing brings has given us a strong case and hopefully a promising future for the conservation of gorillas, offering us with information about the animal’s fitness and highlighting the importance of saving these beautiful beasts.

Whilst this research also opens up many interesting topics on the evolution of humans and the great apes, it also throws a couple of spanners in the works (or should that be a monkey wrench). An interesting example is that of the gene LOXHD1: the fact that this gene is responsible for hearing led to the belief that the influence also spreads to human speech…. so why is the gene shown to be so evolved in gorillas, who are not exactly known for their linguistic skills?

By comparing the genomes, mutations and consequent diseases that result in humans, we can continue to build on our understanding of how and why these occur, and why the variants can be so damaging to the human body and mind, and yet not to the gorilla.

The full article is available in Nature online, with many more viewpoints and articles available around the net. Well worth a read if you haven’t already done so.