A Space Odysseya group of our ape-like ancestors encounter a towering black rectangle somewhere in an African desert. Something in them changes. A seed is sown. Everything from tool use to space travel is now inevitable.
Messenger We humans tend to consider ourselves apart from other species. So what makes us unique? Some still contend our opposable thumbs set us apart, but koalas have two thumbs on each hand.
We walk on two legs? Yes, of course, but the feathered species do that too. Some are insistent that our individuality as a species rests on the fact we can use tools, but many diverse vertebrate species are tool-usersincluding primates, elephants and birds. Even the veined octopus and certain ants and wasps have been observed using tools.
Broken Simulacra The answer, then, is … language. We uniquely have the ability to communicate complex and abstract ideas. At first it was spoken language.
Then, independently, several human cultures developed the written word — the means to communicate with others over thousands of miles or years. Through language we have built civilisations, developed science and medicine, literature and philosophy.
We do not have to learn everything from personal experience, because through language we can learn from the experience of others. While other living mammals share identical amino acids at two key amino positions andthese amino acids are different in humans threonine to asparagine at amino acid and asparagine to serine at amino acid Such substitution mutations occurred some time after we diverged from our common ancestor with the chimpanzee million years ago.
We shared this unique FOXP2 protein sequence with both Neanderthals and Denisovansfrom which we diverged somewhere in the region ofyears ago. Was it this latest mutation in FOXP2 that ensured our survival through better communication, as other hominids went extinct?
This mutation was swiftly incorporated into the human genome at high frequencies during the last 50, years suggesting it carries a survival advantage. Studies to understand the effect of this most recent change in FOXP2 are currently underway.
The FOXP2 gene is involved in brain development, particularly those areas involved in vocal behaviour. FOXP2 is particularly important for animals, including songbirds such as finches, canaries and parrots that learn to sing by imitation.
In the songbird brain, FOXP2 expression is highest when birds are learning to sing. Reduction of FOXP2 expression in the brain of zebra finches at this critical period left birds unable to completely or accurately learn to sing. In humans, FOXP2 mutations are associated with severe speech and language deficits known as developmental verbal dyspraxia — affecting both the ability to coordinate vocal muscles in speech and causing language comprehension difficulties.
What a terrible, isolating condition that must be.
In language we find both truth and beauty; then, being human, we use it to argue about what is true and beautiful. Language is fundamentally what makes us what we are. If so, please, use your voice and let me know.What Makes Us Different?
genome that have changed the most since chimps and humans diverged from a common ancestor have . What Makes Us Human? And what really makes you different from a Neanderthal is above the neck. Computational biologist Katie Pollard describes key parts of our DNA that distinguish us from.
A groundbreaking book about how ancient DNA has profoundly changed our understanding of human history. Geneticists like David Reich have made astounding advances in the field of genomics, which is proving to be as important as archeology, linguistics, and . What insiders know, however, is not well-understood by the rest of us, who take for granted that each A, T, C, and G that makes up the DNA of all 23 pairs of human chromosomes has been completely.
In the same way, DNA is made up of four chemicals, abbreviated as letters A, T, G, and C. Much like the ones and zeros, these letters are arranged in the human cell like . So what exactly makes us so special? Some things we take completely for granted might surprise you.
makes human childbirth unusually dangerous compared with the rest of the animal kingdom. A.