We’re closer to gorillas than we thought

We’re closer to gorillas than we thought

Gorilla DNA decoded for the first time

Scientists have decoded gorilla DNA for the first time. Why did scientists want to do that? Gorillas are great apes like us, so working out the gorilla DNA code can tell us a lot about how we evolved.

Why do scientists decode DNA?

DNA is a code. It's a detailed set of plans, like a blueprint, found inside every cell nucleus. DNA tells living things what to grow, how to grow and when to grow it. The total DNA inside a nucleus is called a genome.


DNA is a code telling living things what to grow, how to grow and when to grow it

Genome sequencing is how scientists look inside cells to decode the DNA.

Scientists look for similarities and differences between different species' DNA to find out how closely related they are.

We're closer to gorillas than we think!

When scientists looked at the gorilla's DNA they found some surprising things.

Scientists found that humans are more similar to gorillas then we previously thought. We share lots of the same DNA. 96% of our DNA is the same as a gorillas!


We share 96% of our DNA with gorillas

Humans and gorillas share genes for hearing. These genes mean that we have better hearing than other great apes.

We also share genes which cause advanced brain development, partly responsible for intelligence in both gorillas and humans.

One difference in the DNA is that gorillas have very active genes coding for proteins which harden the skin. Gorillas have tough leathery skin on their hands, which protects them when they're walking and grabbing leaves to eat.

What's the point of looking at gorilla DNA?

Scientists can learn a lot about human evolution from looking at gorilla DNA. Until now, some scientists thought that the evolution of our good hearing was what enabled us to develop language.


Good hearing didn't lead to language

Now we know that gorillas have good hearing too, we know that hearing can't have been the major reason we developed language. Decoding the differences between human DNA and DNA from other great apes could reveal why humans developed language and culture.

Looking at gorilla DNA can also help us treat diseases. One difference between humans and gorillas is a genetic mutation that causes dementia in humans, but doesn't affect gorillas.

If scientists can work out why the mutation doesn't cause dementia in gorillas, they may be able to prevent dementia in humans.

Have a go at our gorilla quiz and find out how much you know about these great apes!

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