Study: Single Gene, Plus Some "Junk" DNA Turned Ape Ancestors Into Modern Man
November 23, 2012 11:03 AM
(Source: Matt Groening/Fox)
Crucial gene controls higher brain growth
To the uninformed observer it may seem baffling how geneticists, biochemists, paleontologists, and other researchers can claim that two creatures that look as different as a man and a monkey could not only be "related" but have been
produced by evolution
the last couple million years
I. It's All in the Genes
But the key to understanding evolution is to understand genetics: our body is driven by protein enzymes, which catalyze critical processes inside the body. Many proteins share common domains. And the blueprints to all the proteins a creature makes are stored in a special highly-ordered storage construct called DNA.
While living organisms go to great lengths to preserve their genetic code without errors like swapped sections or deletions, occassionally during the process of making sperm and eggs such an error is made. Most errors result in infertility or death of the offspring. But occasionally just the right combination of protein domains has accidentally been clumped together, producing something that fundamentally transforms the organism.
Researchers have finally found a gene -- perhaps
gene -- which separates humans from the ancestors they share with apes.
Humans and apes, both members of the order Primates, share
96 percent of their genetic code
. Most of the remaining 4 percent is so-called "junk" DNA; stretches of mostly inactive code.
Humans share 96 percent of their genetic code with primates, like this
[Image Source: Mark Snelson]
Of course, junk DNA is not useless geneticists and biochemists have recently discovered. It has been shown to in many cases play a key role in regulation of other genes' expression and other "epigenetic" effects.
But researchers had yet to discover a truly active gene that humans have that apes lack -- until now.
II. miR-941 May Hold the Key to How Mankind is so Crafty
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland have discovered a gene called miR-941, which is only found in humans and is absent in their primate relatives.
The gene was absent not only in the gorilla and
, but also in the genomes of other non-primates, such as mice and rats. The gene, absent in all the other critters except for man, is mainly active in the brain; particularly in areas of the brain
associated with so-called "higher brain" functions
The gene was actively being transcribed in the regions of the brain responsiible for language learning and decision making. Researchers hypothesize that it may play a key role in abilities that are largely unique to humans, such as formulating, understanding, and preserving multiple complex communications codes (languages) and developing advanced tools (weapons, machinery).
The newly discovered human-unique gene is active in areas of the brain associated with higher thinking processes. [Image Source: Neuroimages Tumblr]
Some other creatures -- gorillas, parrots, dolphins, and whales -- show different levels of sign language or spoken/sung language skills. And chimpanzees, octupi, and other creatures have been shown to use basic implements, like sticks, as tools. However, only humans are known to manifest these helpful survival skills in more complex manners.
Now, modern genetics may have cracked a key mystery of human evolution and explained why.
The research was
in the prestigious peer-review journal
"Death Is Very Likely The Single Best Invention Of Life" -- Steve Jobs
Long Standing Evolutionary Mystery Solved, Man Gets New Ancient Relatives
August 9, 2012, 2:58 PM
Brain Activity Decoded To Produce Words, Could Produce Method of Mind-Reading
February 1, 2012, 1:30 PM
Neanderthal Sex Gave Europeans and Asians Stronger Immune Systems
August 26, 2011, 4:20 PM
Study Indicates Human, Chimp Males Evolving Faster than Females
January 14, 2010, 10:40 AM
Life in the Fast-lane: Human Evolution Accelerating
December 12, 2007, 3:18 PM
Being worked to death? Study says high stress job and low job control can kill you
October 28, 2016, 4:44 AM
Birth Control Contributes to Depression in Teens and Young Women
October 26, 2016, 4:31 AM
Cyber Hackers Threaten Security of Lifesaving Medical Devices
October 19, 2016, 8:09 AM
Innovative Neurotechnology in Sound Therapy Reduces High Blood Pressure and Migraines
October 16, 2016, 5:00 AM
Researchers Move Closer to Breakthrough Gene Therapy to Cure Sickle Cell
October 14, 2016, 5:00 AM
Keytruda: A breakthrough treatment to increase survival rates for lung cancer patients
October 12, 2016, 5:00 AM
Most Popular Articles
Apple iOS Contains Secret One-handed Keyboard Code
October 22, 2016, 5:00 AM
The Unlocked Moto Z Play Launches for $449.99 Today.
October 22, 2016, 5:00 AM
The New HP Spectre: Revamped and Ready
October 23, 2016, 6:00 AM
New Way to Read Data on Ulta Hard Drives
October 23, 2016, 9:38 AM
Car Insurance - The Hidden Discriminatory Practise
October 18, 2016, 5:00 AM
Latest Blog Posts
Key EpiPen Competitor Out in 2017 At ' Very Low' Cost
Oct 27, 2016, 5:30 AM
Researchers use CRISPR to Accelerate Search for HIV Cure
Oct 26, 2016, 5:00 AM
Medical Council of India Makes Generic Medicines Mandatory
Oct 25, 2016, 5:00 AM
MacBoo Pro 2016: Release date Oct. 27
Oct 24, 2016, 7:16 AM
Mac Users, Try this if Your Mac is Infected?
Oct 23, 2016, 7:00 AM
Tips to Prevent Smartphones From Overheating:
Oct 22, 2016, 5:00 AM
Nasa Flies Drones at Nevada Airport
Oct 21, 2016, 8:21 AM
T-Mobile Data Problems
Oct 20, 2016, 10:17 AM
Annoying Apple Watch Problems and How to Fix Them
Oct 20, 2016, 5:00 AM
Your Mail May Soon Be Delivered By Robot
Oct 19, 2016, 9:34 AM
2018 Jeep Wrangler Prototype Sells At Junkyard
Oct 18, 2016, 5:00 AM
Samsung Shines with Gold Edition Tablet
Oct 17, 2016, 9:24 AM
Tesla Hints Mysterious Product Debut for October 17th
Oct 16, 2016, 10:14 AM
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Phones on US flights
Oct 15, 2016, 5:00 AM
Comcast Fined $2.3 Million For Unconfirmed Services Charged To Customers
Oct 14, 2016, 5:00 AM
“American singer / songwriter “Bob Dylan is awarded 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Oct 13, 2016, 10:33 AM
Battery Defect in Medical Device
Oct 12, 2016, 5:00 AM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information