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Scientist Says Chimps Belong in Human Genus

May 24, 2003|From Associated Press

It may be time to move over and share the human branch of the family tree with chimpanzees, says a researcher who has studied how closely the two are related.

Humans and chimps share 99.4% of DNA -- the genetic code for life -- according to a team led by researcher Morris Goodman of the School of Medicine at Wayne State University in Michigan.

"We humans appear as only slightly remodeled chimpanzee-like apes," said Goodman.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, proposes that chimps be added to the genus Homo, currently reserved only for humans.

A genus is a group of closely related species. The human species, Homo sapiens, stands alone in the genus Homo.

But there have been other species on the branch in the past, such as Homo neanderthalensis, or Neanderthal man.

Chimpanzees are in the genus Pan, along with bonobos, or pygmy chimpanzees.

Goodman's proposal would establish three species under Homo.

One would be Homo (Homo) sapiens, or humans; the second would be Homo (Pan) troglodytes, or common chimpanzees, and the third would be Homo (Pan) paniscus, or bonobo chimpanzees.

There is no official board in charge of placing animals in their various genera, and in some cases alternative classifications are available.

"I think it's a reasonable proposal, of course, or I wouldn't have proposed it," Goodman said.

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