Phylogenetic relations of humans and African apes from DNA sequences in the psi eta-globin region

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Science  16 Oct 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4825, pp. 369-373
DOI: 10.1126/science.3116671


Sequences from the upstream and downstream flanking DNA regions of the psi eta-globin locus in Pan troglodytes (common chimpanzee), Gorilla gorilla (gorilla), and Pongo pygmaeus (orangutan, the closest living relative to Homo, Pan, and Gorilla) provided further data for evaluating the phylogenetic relations of humans and African apes. These newly sequenced orthologs [an additional 4.9 kilobase pairs (kbp) for each species] were combined with published psi eta-gene sequences and then compared to the same orthologous stretch (a continuous 7.1-kbp region) available for humans. Phylogenetic analysis of these nucleotide sequences by the parsimony method indicated (i) that human and chimpanzee are more closely related to each other than either is to gorilla and (ii) that the slowdown in the rate of sequence evolution evident in higher primates is especially pronounced in humans. These results indicate that features (for example, knuckle-walking) unique to African apes (but not to humans) are primitive and that even local molecular clocks should be applied with caution.