Gorilla Genes Give Clues to Origin of Human Characteristics

April 1, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. decode (v.) 
[dee-kohd] – to understand or interpret a code
Example: It is difficult to decode the hidden meaning in his letter.

2. link (n.) [lingk] – a connection or a relationship between two things that affect each other
Example: There is a link between the academic background of an employee and his work performance.

3. match (n.) [mach] – one that is a perfect pair of another
Example: Puzzles are solved by finding the match of each piece.

4. anatomical (adj.) [an-uh-tom-i-kuhl] – related to the body structure of an organism
Example: He performed an anatomical comparison of four-legged animals.

5. ancestor (n.) [an-ses-ter or, especially Brit., -suh-ster] – a relative from which one came from
Example: Apes, whose features resemble man’s, are said to be our ancestors.

Read the text below.

Researchers from Cambridge University in the UK have finally decoded the gorilla genome, which may help them discover how humans have come to understand the concepts of language, culture and science.

The scientists compared 11,000 genes of one female western lowland gorilla to genes of humans, chimpanzees and orangutans.

As past studies have shown, chimpanzees have the closest genetic link to humans, with 99% DNA similarity.  Next are gorillas with 98%, and then orangutans with 97% similar DNA to humans.

However, according to the new study, 15% of the human genome is more similar to the gorilla than to the chimpanzee. In addition, although humans still have the closest overall genetic match with chimpanzees, humans have more individual genes like those of gorillas. These genes allow gorillas to have more human abilities than other apes, such as better hearing.

The researchers also learned about the anatomical changes in each ape species, as they evolved from a common ancestor. By comparing such genetic evidence from all Great Ape species, researchers hope they can solve the mystery of how humans genetically became capable of higher thinking.

Now, researchers are planning to study the bonobo, the only Great Ape whose genome has not yet been decoded. The bonobo is closely related to chimpanzees, and scientists believe they will also reveal genes that are very similar to those of humans.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you believe that humans evolved from apes? Why or why not?
·         What other similarities can you point out between apes and humans?

Discussion B

·         What do you think is the importance of genomics or the study of an organism’s genes?
·         Do you think it will have a negative effect in the future? Why or why not?


April 1, 2012