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Opposable Thumbs and Upright Walking Caused By "Junk DNA" 215

quinnlynn writes "A group of research scientists at Yale discovered that the evolution of opposable thumbs and upright walking in humans is due to changes in the genome in the areas still classified as "junk DNA." Quoting: 'Results from a comparative analysis of the human, chimpanzee, rhesus macaque and other genomes reported in the journal Science suggest our evolution may have been driven not only by sequence changes in genes, but by changes in areas of the genome once thought of as "junk DNA." ... Researchers have long suspected changes in gene expression contributed to human evolution, but this had been difficult to study until recently because most of the sequences that control genes had not been identified. In the last several years, scientists have discovered that non-coding regions of the genome, far from being junk, contain thousands of regulatory elements that act as genetic "switches" to turn genes on or off.'" Yale has also recently completed sequencing the Trichoplax genome. Trichoplax has the simplest known animal genome, and it shares 80 percent of its genes (comprised of 98 million base pairs) with humanity. Professor Stephen Dellaporta was quoted saying, "We are [excited] to find that Trichoplax contains shared pathways and defined regulatory sequences that link these most primitive ancestors to higher animal species. The Trichoplax genome will serve as a type of 'Rosetta Stone' for understanding the origins of animal-specific pathways."

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