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Human Evolution

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  • David Klousie
    A new gene has been identified in humans that is not present in other apes, shedding more light on human evolution. Researchers of the University of Edinburgh
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 15, 2012
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      A new gene has been identified in humans that is not present in other apes, shedding more light
      on human evolution. Researchers of the University of Edinburgh (UK) compared the human genome to 11 other
      mammalian species, including chimps, gorillas, mice and rats. They found that only humans
      possessed the gene miR-941. This is a stark contrast to previous genetic differences found
      between us and our ape cousins, which indicated changes to genes rather than totally new ones
      (a good example of this is the FoxP2 gene - though we have different versions with different
      effects, we still both have the gene). Further testing revealed that this gene is highly active in two brain areas that make humans so successful - tool use and language abilities. These results
      strongly indicate that miR-941 makes a large contribution to our higher brain functions. The fact that only we have this gene is remarkable. Differences between species are usually a
      result of changes to genes, duplication or deletion. But miR-941 seems to have emerged fully-
      functional out of "junk" DNA (non-coding genetic material), and its emergence was extremely
      brief in evolutionary terms. It's also estimated this gene emerged between 1 and 6 million years
      ago, after humans and chimps had split from their last common ancestor. Dr. Martin Taylor, who led the study, commented, "As a species, humans are wonderfully
      inventive -- we are socially and technologically evolving all the time. But this research shows
      that we are innovating at a genetic level too. This new molecule sprang from nowhere at a time
      when our species was undergoing dramatic changes: living longer, walking upright, learning how
      to use tools and how to communicate. We're now hopeful that we will find more new genes that
      help show what makes us human." Photo credit: Michael Nichols. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121114113458.htm http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/252822.php If you want to read the team's paper, click here: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v3/n10/ full/ncomms2146.html Regarding FoxP2 gene: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091111130942.htm

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