Humans related to orangutans, not chimps

June 22, 2009 at 11:38 AM
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PITTSBURGH, June 22 (UPI) -- A U.S. study suggests humans are more likely related to orangutans and not chimpanzees, as is commonly proposed.

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and the Buffalo Museum of Science said they view as "problematic" the popular suggestion, based on DNA analysis, that humans are most closely related to chimpanzees. They said that hypothesis is not supported by fossil evidence.

University of Pittsburgh Professor Jeffrey Schwartz and John Grehan, director of science at the Buffalo museum, conducted a detailed analysis of the physical features of living and fossil apes. They said their findings suggest humans, orangutans and early apes belong to a group separate from chimpanzees and gorillas.

Schwartz and Grehan scrutinized hundreds of physical characteristics often cited as evidence of evolutionary relationships among humans and other great apes and selected 63 that could be verified as unique since they do not appear in other primates. Of those features, the analysis found humans shared 28 unique physical characteristics with orangutans, compared with only two features with chimpanzees.

The study is detailed in the Journal of Biogeography.

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