An international team of researchers has discovered a new gene that helps explain how humans evolved from chimpanzees.
Scientists said the gene – called miR-941 – appeared to have played a crucial role in human brain development and may shed light on how we learned to use tools and language.
Researchers also said it was the first time that a new gene – carried only by humans and not by apes – has been shown to have a specific function within the human body.
A team at Edinburgh University compared the human genome to 11 other species of mammals, including chimpanzees, gorillas, mice and rats, to find the differences between them.
The results, published in Nature Communications, showed that the miR-941 gene is unique to humans. The researchers said it emerged between six and one million years ago, after humans had evolved from apes.