SYDNEY -- Gorillas and chimpanzees should be reclassified into the same species group as humans because of the closeness of their DNA, according to a team of Australian and New Zealand scientists.
The scientists on Friday [May 3] called for a formal revision of the genus homo and for species classification to be based on DNA.
"If you compare other mammal groups, like genus ratus (rat) there is much more divergence in DNA than there is between humans and chimpanzees," Australian scientist Simon Easteal, from the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra, told Reuters on Friday.
"If the (species) classification is to have any sort of meaning and standard we should be in the same genus," said Easteal, a member of a team of Australian and New Zealand scientists who presented a paper "Human Origins and Evolution" at the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra on Friday.
Using a nuclear DNA test the scientists found humans diverged from chimpanzees about 3.6 to four million years ago and the two had diverged from gorillas between four and five million years ago.
"There is only 1.6 percent difference between our nuclear DNA and that of a chimpanzee, and only 1.7 percent difference from a gorilla," Easteal said. "The coding DNA is closer still and some DNA shows absolutely no differences at all."
Eastel said the DNA test indicated that both chimpanzees and humans had a common ancestor who walked upright.
Developments in DNA research meant that the old rules of classification of species based on appearance was now obsolete, as changes in DNA sequences were a more reliable way to classify animals than outward appearances because DNA appeared to change more evenly.
"I think classification should be based on DNA distances. This (genus homo) is just one case of that," he said.
Original file name: .CNI - Enlarge genus homo 5.6
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