Gorilla Lab Report

Decent Essays

New calculations to establish when the gorilla, chimpanzee and human lineages diverged are now possible. By combining data on DNA-sequence differences between species with estimates of DNA-mutation rates operative millions of years ago, Scally and colleagues calculate the human-chimpanzee and (human+chimpanzee)-gorilla branch points to be 3.7 million and 5.95 million years ago, respectively. These dates conflict with some fossil evidence, but more complex calculations that allow for mutation rates that change with time--a reasonable possibility owing to changes in the average length of generations and other parameters--may resolve this problem.

An overarching question is how these three divergent lineages each acquired
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The authors compared Kamilah's genome with sequence data from two other western lowland gorillas and an eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringeigraueri), and found substantial genetic differentiation within the genus, consistent with previous data (9). The genus is currently classified into four subspecies, two for each of the two species, but the variation identified by Scally et al. suggests further analysis of genetic diversity in gorillas is warranted.

Gorillas have inspired awe and scientific interest throughout history. The sequencing of the gorilla genome adds valuable information to our understanding of these remarkable animals and our evolutionary relationship to them--revealing a closer connection between our genome and that of the gorilla than was previously appreciated. Sadly, the future of gorillas is uncertain, with all populations under severe human-induced pressure, and the mountain gorillas especially close to extinction. Their fate is inextricably linked to our choices, and these extraordinary primates deserve our utmost efforts at conservation. To quote from American author Daniel Quinn's novel Ishmael, "with man gone, will there be hope for gorilla?" or, even more soberingly, "with gorilla gone, will there be hope for man?".

(1.) Scally, A. et al. Nature 483, 169-175
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