Implications of natural selection in shaping 99.4% nonsynonymous DNA identity between humans and chimpanzees: Enlarging genus Homo
What do functionally important DNA sites, those scrutinized and shaped by natural selection, tell us about the place of humans in evolution? Here we compare ≈90 kb of coding DNA nucleotide sequence from 97 human genes to their sequenced chimpanzee counterparts and to available sequenced gorilla, orangutan, and Old World monkey counterparts, and, on a more limited basis, to mouse. The nonsynonymous changes (functionally important), like synonymous changes (functionally much less important), show chimpanzees and humans to be most closely related, sharing 99.4% identity at nonsynonymous sites and 98.4% at synonymous sites. On a time scale, the coding DNA divergencies separate the human-chimpanzee clade from the gorilla clade at between 6 and 7 million years ago and place the most recent common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees at between 5 and 6 million years ago. The evolutionary rate of coding DNA in the catarrhine clade (Old World monkey and ape, including human) is much slower than in the lineage to mouse. Among the genes examined, 30 show evidence of positive selection during descent of catarrhines. Nonsynonymous substitutions by themselves, in this subset of positively selected genes, group humans and chimpanzees closest to each other and have chimpanzees diverge about as much from the common human-chimpanzee ancestor as humans do. This functional DNA evidence supports two previously offered taxonomic proposals: family Hominidae should include all extant apes; and genus Homo should include three extant species and two subgenera, Homo (Homo) sapiens (humankind), Homo (Pan) troglodytes (common chimpanzee), and Homo (Pan) paniscus (bonobo chimpanzee).