Research Article

High-resolution comparative analysis of great ape genomes

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Science  08 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6393, eaar6343
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar6343

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  • Great ape DNA and australopith evolution
    • Marc Verhaegen, Medical Doctor, Study Center for Anthropology, B-2580 Belgium.

    Congratulations for this major achievement. The almost complete comparisons of great ape DNA might be very important scientifically. One of the possible implications in my opinion might be a correction of some traditional paleo-anthropological views on human evolution. If ever it will be possible to extract DNA from fossil australopithecine skeletons, enough to compare it to these great ape DNAs, I "predict" that most if not all australopith DNA will not be genetically closer to human DNA than to the DNA of one of the African apes.
    Traditionally, the australopithecines are viewed to be closer relatives of Homo than of Pan or Gorilla, but this view is mostly based on the anthropocentric assumption that most humanlike features in australopiths (e.g. vertical spine, "low" pelvis, etc.) are derived-human, whereas different students including myself have argued independently that many humanlike features in australopiths are probably primitive-hominid (i.e. were already present in the last common ancestor of Pan, Homo and Gorilla) rather than derived-human.
    (More specifically, in three articles in Human Evolution in the 1990s I have argued on comparative-morphological grounds that different East-African australopiths are genetically closer to Gorilla than to Homo or Pan, and that different if not all South-African australopiths are closer to Pan than to Homo and a fortiori Gorilla. Google e.g. "Ape and Human Evolution 2018 biology vs anthropo...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.