People and chimpanzees share an even closer genetic kinship than is usually assumed, according to a new study. So close is the connection that living chimp species belong to the genus Homo, just as people do, contend Morris Goodman of Wayne State University in Detroit and his colleagues. Until now, chimps have been classified in a separate genus, Pan.
Genetic analyses also indicate that all living apes–chimps, gorillas, and orangutans–belong to the evolutionary family known as hominids, Goodman's group claims in the June 10 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers traditionally have regarded hominids as a group consisting only of people and our prehistoric ancestors who originated at least 5 million years ago.
From a genetic perspective, "humans appear as only slightly remodeled chimpanzee-like apes," the scientists contend.
Goodman and his colleagues focused on so-called functional DNA mutations known to