Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The chimpanzee genome is unveiled

Robin Orwant:

In keeping with previous studies comparing much smaller portions of the chimp and human genomes, the new comparison shows incredible similarity between the genomes. The average number of protein-changing mutations per gene is just two, and 29% of human genes are absolutely identical. What is more, only a handful of genes present in humans are absent or partially deleted in chimps.

But the degree of genome similarity alone is far from the whole story. For example, the mouse species Mus musculus and Mus spretus have genomes that differ from each other to a similar degree and yet they appear far more similar than chimps and humans.

Domestic dogs, however, vary wildly in appearance as a result of selective breeding and yet their genome sequences are 99.85% similar. So most of the differences between chimp and human genomes will turn out to be neither beneficial nor detrimental, in evolutionary terms.

The real challenge then will be finding the changes that played a major role in the evolution of chimps and humans since the two lineages split, 5 to 8 million years ago. Nothing obvious has leapt out of the initial analysis. “From this study, there’s no silver bullet of what makes chimps chimps and humans humans,” says Evan Eichler of the University of Washington at Seattle, US.

And yet no sane person believes that humans and chimps belong to the same species. On the other hand, liberals love to proclaim that there is "no genetic basis for race". What this research shows is that very small genetic differences can have a major impact in determining the attributes of closely-related races and species.

On Dawkins on Race

Medicine’s Race Problem

Race Does Exist--New York Times

Human genetic diversity: Lewontin’s fallacy

Pattern Classification in Population Genetics, Pt. 1

New genome comparison finds chimps, humans very similar at DNA level

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