Thursday, January 27, 2011

Orangutan genome 'evolved slowly'

Scientists have released a draft sequence of the orangutan genome, revealing intriguing clues to the evolution of great apes and humans.

The work suggests orangutans may be genetically closer to the proposed ancestral great ape than are chimps, gorillas and humans.

Details of the research are outlined in the journal Nature.

Two modern species of orang-utan live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra respectively; both are under threat.

Of the great apes, the orangutan is the most genetically distant from humans.

Fossil finds show that it once had a wider range across South-East Asia; modern populations are threatened by the destruction of their forest habitat and other human activities such as trapping and selling the juvenile apes as pets.

An international team led by Devin Locke, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, US, sequenced the full genome of a female Sumatran orangutan named Susie.

With Susie's data as a reference, the researchers took advantage of next-generation sequencing technology to obtain lower resolution data on the genomes of 10 additional orangutans - five from Sumatra and five from Borneo.

The team's analysis reveals that the orangutan genome has experienced a slower rate of evolution than those of other great apes, with fewer rearrangements, duplications and repeats in the sequence.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Orangutan genome 'evolved slowly'

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