Chimps, our nearest relative, don't talk. We do. Now scientists have pinpointed a mutation in a gene that might help explain the difference.
The mutation seems to have helped humans develop speech and language. It's probably not the only gene involved, but researchers found the gene looks and acts differently in chimps and humans, according to a study published online Wednesday by the journal Nature.
Lab tests showed that the human version regulated more than 100 other genes differently from the chimp version. This particular gene — called
"It's really playing a major role in chimp-human differences," said the study's author, Daniel Geschwind, a professor of neurology, psychiatry and human genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles. "You mutate this gene in humans and you get a speech and language disorder."
This tells you "what may be happening in the brain," he said.