Apr

17

no one we knowChimps Are Champs of Genetic Changes, By Virginia Morell ScienceNOW Daily News 16 April 2007

Whose genome has evolved more, chimpanzee or human? You might answer "human." After all, with our nearly hairless skin and larger brains, it would surely seem that genetically we've outpaced our closest relatives since parting company 7 million years ago. But that anthropocentric view is mistaken, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The team was searching for genetic evidence of adaptive changes. These mutations are positively selected; that is, they confer a benefit that makes survival and reproduction more likely and have spread throughout a population via natural selection. Jianzhi Zhang, a population geneticist, and his colleagues compared nearly 14,000 protein-coding genes in humans and chimpanzees, which have about the same size genome. Using a statistical analysis, they identified 154 human genes that have been positively selected. In contrast, they found 233 such genes in chimpanzees, a 51% increase, they report online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

I recall in high school a good female friend of mine thought dolphins were the most evolved. Yet, she could never answer the question: If they are smarter than we, why can't they avoid getting caught in our tuna nets? And if chimps are so evolved, why were they our sidekicks in 70s and early 80s TV shows and movies, and not vice-versa?

Marion Dreyfus replies:

Prof. Haave's questions are not probative of anything, least of all our putative superior intelligence.

If humans are so smart, why are we continually destroying ourselves personally, tribally, and globally? Everyone on the planet knows smoking is deleterious, stupid, and expensive, guaranteed to produce horrendous medical consequences — yet, um, how many people are still smoking? Unbelted seatbelt, Mr Governor, on the way to a Rutgers confab? Another nightcap, Mr Putin? And what group of 15 chimps would have let themselves be hornswoggled by Iranian dingdongs?

Why does the evolutionary success on land of humankind vitiate the superior adaptation of dolphins to their own environment (eschewing the unfair advantages conferred by nasty weaponry and general mayhem indulged in by human predators lacking the kindness of a clear playing field)?

Again, those anecdotal, highly colored, situational responses or non-escapes by animals prove nothing about whether our animal companions are less clever or adaptively sharp than we.


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