Interviewee: Svante Paabo.
Evolutionary geneticist Svante Paabo speaks about the differences between chimp and humans and a genetic basis for language.
(DNAi Location: Applications > Human origins > Comparisons > Behavior > Chimps, humans, and language)
So one of the obvious differences - one of the most interesting ones between apes and humans - is of course that humans have language and the apes don't. At least not a complex language as we do. And what was really fascinating a year ago was that a British group discovered the first gene we know of where mutations in a family in that gene, affects language ability and speech. And that gene is called FOXP2. And what we have done is to study the evolution of that gene. So we have sequenced the gene, in all the great apes, in chimps, gorillas, orangs, and in monkeys, and in the mouse, and what we find then is that there are two changes in the gene. That change to two of the messages in the protein made from the gene, have happened specifically on the line to human, whereas the chimpanzee, for example, is almost identical to the mouse. And in addition when we look on the pattern of variation in the human, we can see signals of recent selection. So that it seems that this gene has changed its function in some way that made it advantageous for humans within the last 200,000 years or so.
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