Most Accurate Gorilla Genome Sequenced To Date

While it took over 10 years to fully sequence the human genome, modern technology means it is now much easier to decode the DNA of many other organisms. The information contained within each cell can provide a fascinating glimpse of what makes a species a species. Now researchers have managed to generate the most accurate reading of the gorilla genome, filling in hundreds of thousands of gaps. With this new information, the researchershope they can meaningfully compare the gorilla genome with that ofhumans and other apes.

The gorilla genome was actually first sequenced back in 2012 by an international group of researchers, and was the last genus of great apes to get its full genome decoded. The gorilla genome is important because it sheds light on the time when our ancestors diverged from our closest evolutionary cousins, explained Aylwyn Scally, first author of the original study to sequence gorilla DNA, in a statement.It also lets us explore the similarities and differences between our genes and those of the gorilla, the largest living primate.

Due to the methods used to construct that first gorilla genome, there were over 400,000 sequence gaps, as well as some inaccurate genetic structuring. This meant that when comparing the gorilla genome with that of humans, many regions of the human genome could not be readily aligned with those ofourlargest livingprimate. This greatly limitedthe ability of researchersto make any comparisons. But by using more modern techniques, the new study published in Science is able to fill in an impressive 94 percent of these gaps, producing the most accurate reading yet of the gorilla genome.

Susie the female western lowland gorilla at Lincoln Park Zoo, whose DNA was sequenced for the project.Courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo

The team took a DNA sample from a western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) named Susie, who lives in Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Using what is known as long-read sequencing technology, as well as a bunch of algorithms, they were able to decode much longer stretches of Susies genome, making the resulting sequence far more accurate. They then compared it with the human genome to find there were an astonishing 117,512 points at which there was either additionalor removed information.

They also found that while overall we are indeed more closely related to chimpanzees, there are regions of our DNA some 15 percent of it in fact that are more similar to gorillas. This, claim the researchers, is evidence of the rapid divergence ofchimp, gorilla, and human lineages when they split millions of years ago.

The researchershope that by filling in the holes, they can get a more meaningful understanding of the gorilla’s DNAand alsoof what makes us human.

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Cat’s Hand-Swinging Dance with Her Human (Video)

Ame the Cat performs a weird hand ritual with her owner…

Thanks Miwa!

Why Do We Have Two Nostrils?

Popular super nerd  has returned to the web for his much anticipated weekly science lesson. For his latest video, he asks the very intriguing question, “Why Do We Have Two Nostrils?

Having two ears and two eyes serves very real purposes–mainly echo location and depth perception. But is there a scientific reason for why we, and so many other animals, have two nostrils?

Why not one big nostril, just like we have one mouth?


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Zapata Flyboard JetPack Turns You Into Human Dolphin (Video)

Zapata Flyboard JetPack Turns You Into Human DolphinZapata Flyboard JetPack Turns You Into Human Dolphin

Flyboard, a new water-powered jet-pack built by French water sports fan Franky Zapata, lets you dive in and out of water like a human dolphin. This is the main feature that separates Zapata’s Flyboard from Jetlev, another water-propelled jetpack which was revealed earlier this year.

The other difference is the price. The Jetlev is priced at whopping $ 107,000, but the basic Zapata Racing Flyboard model costs $ 6,500.

Zapata Flyboard JetPack Turns You Into Human DolphinZapata Flyboard JetPack Turns You Into Human Dolphin

The mechanics are similar, with water sucked from the ocean through a huge hose attached to a jetski and blasted back out again.

The power of the water is controlled by an operator on the jetski, which has to have at least 100hp to operate the Flyboard.

Once you’ve got the hang of it it’s possible to jump to incredible heights out of the water – over 30ft – with Franky Zapata himself even able to perform backwards somersaults.

Not as graceful as a dolphin, but looks really fun.

via Yababoon

Touched by a Wild Mountain Gorilla (Video)

Wild baby gorillas groom explorer in UgandaWild baby gorillas groom explorer in Uganda

A group of researchers encounters a pack of wild mountain gorillas near Uganda’s Bwindi National Park and one lucky human gets groomed by baby gorillas…

via Viral Viral Videos

Why Do Elephants Rarely Get Cancer?

Despite the ridiculous rumor, sharks do get cancer. Elephants, though, rarely do, and thats a weird phenomenon that scientists have really struggled to explain. But they may have finally cracked it: According to a new study, its all in the genes. Well, one gene, and their 20 copies of it.

With a self-explanatory name, tumor suppressor, this helps get rid of damaged cells that could become cancerous. Humans only have one copy, so researchers think that owning extras could be behind the remarkable ability of these pachyderms to resist cancer. And later on down the line, these intriguing findings may help us in our own fight against cancer (but let’s not turn them into supplements, please?).

But lets rewind a little bit first. Why is it strange that elephants seem to have a reduced burden of cancer? Well, cancer, as you probably know, is a disease that results from cell division gone haywire. Elephants are obviously big animals, so you would logically assume that more cells equals a greater risk of something going wrong. Cell division isnt error-proof, and mistakes that could lead to mutation are often made if not dealt with appropriately.

In steps the Peto paradox: We dont actually see increased cancer incidence in larger species. So how are the biguns staving off the disease? A study by the University of Utah and Arizona State University decided to find out.

They began by seeking to confirm the absence of a positive relationship between body size and cancer incidence, which involved scouring through 14 years of necropsy data in order to calculate tumor rates for 36 species of mammal, spanning sixorders of magnitude in size. As expected, cancer mortality didnt increase with body size, and elephants were estimated to only have a 4.8% cancer mortality rate; in humans its up to 25%.

Next, they scoured the elephant genome in search of clues, and they found something pretty remarkable. Unlike humans that only own the one, elephants have 20 copies, and therefore 40 forms, or alleles (remember chromosomes are in pairs), of a gene called TP53 which codes for a protein called p53. TP53 is whats known as a tumor suppressor gene: these cellular safeguards function to prevent inappropriate cell division and kill off cells to keep things balanced.

When the researchers examined these alleles further, they found that 38 of them seemed to be modified duplicates of the original that have appeared throughout their evolutionary history. To find out if its this extra genetic baggage thats helping the animals resist cancer, the team exposed cells isolated from humans and elephants to DNA-damaging radiation and observed the effects.

Compared to cells obtained from healthy humans, those from elephants committed suicide twice as frequently in response to the damage, which was found to be driven by p53. And when they compared them to cells isolated from patients with Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a disorder in which a missing working copy of TP53 results in a dramatically increased cancer risk, the suicide rate was found to be five times greater. The results are published in JAMA.

By all logical reasoning, elephants should be developing a tremendous amount of cancer, and in fact, should be extinct by now due to such a high risk for cancer, co-senior author Joshua Schiffman said in a statement. We think that making more p53 is natures way of keeping this species alive.

But before we start giving p53 all the praise, its likely that there are other factors at play. For example, an accompanying editorial points out that elephants sluggish metabolic rate is likely coupled with low rates of cell division, which could also contribute to the reduced risk. More research is needed, but its an interesting start nonetheless.

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CGI Animals Doing Stunts in France 3 TV Ads (Video)

Remember the animated short with high diving giraffes? These France 3 commercials with CGI animals are equally awesome!


Boxer Dog Gives Owner a Death Stare during Car Ride (Video)

Boxer Dog Gives Owner a Death Stare during Car Ride (Video)

‘Don’t you ever touch me again, human!’

Video by td_stoppenhagen. Spotted here.

Human Population Through Time Visualized

This very interesting video from the American Museum of Natural History displaying the growth of the human population on earth (from the beginning to now) has gotten over 500.000 views within days. I think it is a very well done visualization.

“It took 200,000 years for our human population to reach 1 billionand only 200 years to reach 7 billion. But growth has begun slowing, as women have fewer babies on average. When will our global population peak? And how can we minimize our impact on Earths resources, even as we approach 11 billion?”

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