Print 93 comment(s) - last by drycrust3.. on Dec 7 at 2:24 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 over 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 the 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.

Rhesus macaque
Humans share 96 percent of their genetic code with primates, like this Rhesus macaque monkey.
[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 chimpanzee genomes, 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).

Human brain activity
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 published in the prestigious peer-review journal Nature Communications.

Source: Nature Communications

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By heerohawwah on 11/24/2012 4:11:59 PM , Rating: 0
I believe you missed the point and really are actually helping prove that very notion. First off, there is NO fossil evidence supporting evolution at all, none. Every claim made by evolutionists has been exposed as either intentional fraud or simply bad science. The excuse that evolution is to slow to observe is even more feeble, and is a literal admission that evolution is not science. It's no different than JW's claiming that Jesus came to North America invisibly... Science relies on facts, the apple fell from the tree because of GRAVITY. A measurable, testable, repeatable concept. You mentioned ecosystems, evolution actually works against ecosystems, against forests and interdependency. In fact ecosystems shouldn't even exist if evolution were true, dependency is literally less evolved. Also any animal or plant wanting to do something, or grow taller as you suggest is complete irrelevant, wanting something does not change your DNA. (there are numerous books and papers on this subject, from DNA to ecosystems in general) Evolution is not a mechanism, it does not make predictions, it doesn't think or reason, and it has never been shown to be true... and why?
Because the fundamental laws of nature, precious scientific LAW prevents evolution from happening. And yes, this includes the laws of physics including the laws of thermodynamics. The only possible way for evolution to occur requires things like perpetual motion machines, and a complete disregard for every single scientific discovery mankind has made. The door for evolution as a mechanism or theory closed the very instant life was shown to exist at a cellular level. The discovery of DNA was like sealing evolution in a coffin, screwing it closed then welding a steel box around it and throwing it into the sun.
Evolution is as far as science is concerned is DEAD. It has no basis and really only exists today as a religious fantasy. Before Darwin atheists had nothing, literally nothing, to justify their beliefs and were not considered intellectuals. And now even to this day it is the only thing they have to cling too, the one single justification they use to promote their beliefs, and like many other religious beliefs its complete BS. Simply watch any debate, Richard Dawkins or whoever verses an intelligent designer or even a Creationist, the evolutionists get slaughtered every time...and mostly because their beliefs are not based in science and therefore not true to reality.

By Cheesew1z69 on 11/24/2012 7:04:52 PM , Rating: 2
Evolution is as far as science is concerned is DEAD.
You really are an idiot aren't you? Evolution is real. There is nothing to debate about it. It's a FACT.

It has no basis and really only exists today as a religious fantasy.

By retrospooty on 11/24/2012 7:31:39 PM , Rating: 2
I'm starting to think now that your trolling. Because no 1 can be that incredibly and totally made by scientists about evolution haven't been disproved, they support each other thousands and thousands and thousands of times over with collaborative data from fossil evidence , geological evidence, archaeological evidence and DNA evidence. Just because you're to mind numbingly ignorant to understand these things doesn't make them not true, it just makes you ignorant.and if you are just trolling, whatever that's almost equally ignorant. I really hope that you are trolling because it saddens me to think that people are really that dumb. your intellectual level has come nowhere for the past 2000 years. Proving that some of us evolve faster than others

By Cheesew1z69 on 11/24/2012 7:33:36 PM , Rating: 2
Because no 1 can be that incredibly and totally ignorant
Not true, there are a few on here that are. Won't name names though.

By retrospooty on 11/24/2012 7:52:39 PM , Rating: 1
You are probably right. Its ironic that those who are intellectually closer to apes than the rest of us are the ones that don't think we evolved from them. LOL

By Cheesew1z69 on 11/24/2012 7:55:15 PM , Rating: 2

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

Most Popular Articles5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
No More Turtlenecks - Try Snakables
September 19, 2016, 7:44 AM
ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment in Children: Problem or Paranoia?
September 19, 2016, 5:30 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM
Automaker Porsche may expand range of Panamera Coupe design.
September 18, 2016, 11:00 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki