Study also finds human evolution slower than apes
Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found genetic evidence that seems to support a controversial hypothesis that humans and chimpanzees may be more closely related to each other than chimps are to the other two species of great apes – gorillas and orangutans. They also found that humans evolved at a slower rate than apes.
Appearing in the January 23, 2006 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, biologist Soojin Yi reports that the rate of human and chimp molecular evolution – changes that occur over time at the genetic level – is much slower than that of gorillas and orangutans, with the evolution of humans being the slowest of all.
As species branch off along evolutionary lines, important genetic traits, like the rate of molecular evolution also begin to diverge. They found that the speed of this molecular clock in humans and chimps is so similar, it suggests that certain human-specific traits, like generation time, began to evolve one million years ago - very recently in terms of evolution. The amount of time between parents and offspring is longer in humans than apes. Since a long generation time is closely correlated with the evolution of a big brain, it also suggests that developmental changes specific to humans may also have evolved very recently.
David Terraso | EurekAlert!
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