Scientists, led by researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge, England, and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, found that 15% of the gorilla's genetic code is closer between humans and gorillas than between humans and chimpanzees. The chimpanzee remains our closest animal relative. Gorillas are the last of the living great apes humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans to have its complete genetic code catalogued. In 2008 geneticists took DNA from Kamilah, a then 30-year-old female western lowland gorilla from the San Diego Zoo. The genetic sequence was published in the science journal Nature. The team published the species' genome, which completes a basic genetic library of the great apes a branch of primates including humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans.
Man and the gorilla last shared a common ancestor 10 million years ago, according to an analysis of the first full sequence of the gorilla genome.
Scientists found the genomes of all three species are, in any case, highly similar: humans and chimpanzees share more than 98% of their genes, while humans and gorillas share more than 96%.
Aylwyn Scally, an author of the research from the institute, said ''They're our second-closest evolutionary cousins after chimpanzees and knowing the content of the gorilla genome enables us to say quite a lot about an important period in human evolution when we were diverging from chimpanzees.''
The gorilla genome suggests the divergence of gorillas from the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees happened approximately 10 million years ago, humans and chimpanzees last shared a common ancestor approximately 6 million years ago. The eastern and western gorillas split within the last million years.
Chris Tyler-Smith, senior author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said ''Scientists had suggested that the rapid evolution of human hearing genes was linked to the evolution of language, our results cast doubt on this, as hearing genes have evolved in gorillas at a similar rate to those in humans.''