Alu about Eve - news story - 30 Apr 2012

Ape data

An Alu element is a chunk of DNA sequence found in primate (and therefore human) genomes. Humans have over a million Alu elements in our genomes, some 5,000 being unique to us, making up over 10% of the entire string. They have been very important in tracing the evolution of the apes and in studying human populations for migrationary history, hominin evolution, hereditary diseases and so on.

They first show up in ancestral primate genomes about 65 million years ago and tend to stick around, so the gradual addition can be a tool for direct comparison of genome sequences of different species over time. Shared patterns of Alu elements will indicate an ancestor common to both genomes, and can help place species into evolutionary structures. Researchers have found an Alu element present in primates 'higher up the tree' than gibbons that orangutans - both known species - have repeated while the rest of us (gorillas, humans, chimps, bonobos) haven't. It may lead to a better understanding of when orangutans split from the other great apes, and then when the Sumatran apes parted from their cousins in Borneo. You can read a bit more on the story here.

This means once the mysterious Orang pendek is found - hopefully - it'll be possible to show how it fits into the Pongo picture. Or if it's just a guy in a monkey suit.