Study: Single Gene, Plus Some "Junk" DNA Turned Ape Ancestors Into Modern Man
November 23, 2012 11:03 AM
comment(s) - last by
(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
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
11/29/2012 5:28:02 PM
This is the 954,234,766 "just so" story that explains how apes mysteriously changed into humans.
Next month there will be another one and this will be all but forgotten. Mick is clearly obsessed with this topic.
If the miR-941 gene is the key to changing monkeys into human beings, then lets insert that gene into a chimpanzee embryo and observe if it starts doing math equations after it is born. Until something like that happens, all this is nothing more than wild speculation.
"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard
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
Nail Polish May Soon be Able to Detect Date Rape Drugs
August 26, 2014, 7:57 AM
SpaceX Falcon 9-R Rocket Suffers Malfunction, Self-Destructs During Test Flight
August 23, 2014, 9:36 AM
Texas Chosen as Site for SpaceX's First Commercial Launchpad
August 5, 2014, 1:44 PM
South Carolina Prison Finds Crashed Drone Carrying Drugs, Phones
August 1, 2014, 2:49 PM
NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Gains Seven New Instruments for Exploration
August 1, 2014, 1:30 PM
NASA Opportunity Rover Breaks Record for Most Miles Traveled on Another Planet
July 29, 2014, 1:38 PM
Most Popular Articles
Apple Announces 4.7" iPhone 6, 5.5" iPhone 6 Plus
September 9, 2014, 1:45 PM
Appalling Negligence: Decade-Old Windows XPe Holes Led to Home Depot Hack
September 8, 2014, 8:58 PM
Apple Announces Its Smartwatch: The $349 Apple Watch
September 9, 2014, 2:09 PM
T-Mobile Launches Un-carrier 7.0, Beefs Up Wi-Fi Calling
September 11, 2014, 2:56 PM
HTC Preps Nexus 9 With Nvidia K1 64-Bit "Denver" SoC, Android L Onboard
September 10, 2014, 10:21 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Space Terrorism is a Looming Threat For the United States
Apr 23, 2014, 7:47 PM
Facebook Aims to Provide Internet to "Every Person in the World" with Drones, Satellites
Apr 1, 2014, 10:20 AM
Retail Mobile Sites Experience Outages in Light of Simplexity's Bankruptcy
Mar 14, 2014, 8:48 AM
Tesla vs. BMW: Who Has the Safer EV?
Feb 1, 2014, 2:56 PM
Justice Leaks Details of Next HTC One Two Flagship Phone
Dec 5, 2013, 4:04 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information