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San Diego Zoo’s western lowland gorilla, Kamilah’s genome sequenced

The genomic sequence of DNA from Kamilah, a 300-pound western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) from the San Diego Zoo, which maintains a DNA library of endangered animals, was published in the latest issue of Nature 483, 164–165 (08 March 2012), published online 07 March 2012. The abstract notes that “…genetic similarities among humans and the apes are more complex than expected, and allows a fresh assessment of the evolutionary mechanisms that led to the primate species seen today.”

“The gorilla genome is important because it sheds light on the time when our ancestors diverged from our closest evolutionary cousins around six to 10 million years ago,” says Aylwyn Scally, postdoctoral fellow at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge and lead author of the report.

Gorillas are the last genus of living great apes to have their genomes sequenced. The human genome sequence was published in 2001; the chimpanzee, in 2005; and the orangutan, in 2011.

“Sequencing the genome of a female western lowland gorilla named Kamilah determined that most gorilla DNA is similar or identical to those of humans, despite the 10 million-year gap since the two species split off….”

The western lowland gorilla is the widespread species of gorilla, with a population estimated at 100,000 – 200,000. The majority of individuals are found in Cameroon, Central African Republic, west Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Angola.

In 30 percent of the genome, the study determined that gorillas are closer to humans and chimpanzees than the latter two are to each other. It’s a finding that may help scientists track changes in how the species have responded over time to shared genetic characteristics, including diseases, the researchers said.

Thank you, Kamilah! We look forward to learning a lot about you… and us! :-)

-Bill at

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