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Human-Chimp Genetic Similarities Illustrated


When it Comes to Evolution, Seeing May Be Believing

UC Riverside Researchers built a Web site charting the genetic similarities
between humans and our closest wild relatives— chimpanzees

(September 29, 2005)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — www.ucr.edu — When Eamonn Keogh of the University of California, Riverside learned that geneticists decoded the chimpanzee genome and showed it is 96 percent identical to that of humans, he pondered — how can we illustrate this so you don’t have to be a geneticist or mathematician to understand the similarities?

Using his data mining expertise, Keogh, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering, set out with computer science colleagues Stefano Lonardi, an expert in bioinformatics; graphical computer expert Victor Zordan; and evolutionary anthropologist Sang-Hee Lee, to develop three-dimensional charts of the human and chimpanzee genomes. They posted their findings on a Web page.

“It’s a visual and intuitive way to illustrate, for the man on the street, that maybe there is something to this evolution thing,” Keogh said. “Right now this evidence is out there, but scientists believe that DNA evidence supports evolution based on rather sophisticated mathematical interpretations of the data. With this tool, anyone can see the DNA evidence with his or her own eyes.”

The animation also compares humans and chimp genomes with those of another primate, the gibbon, and two more genetically distant animals — the African and Indian elephants.

Keogh uses tools to analyze large collections of data — such as complex genetic sequences —through time, a method known as time-series analysis, and combines them with mathematic algorithms to find patterns. In some applications, this field of study, known as data mining, can be used to predict future actions.

“We think this addresses that problem of visualizing large data sets in biological sciences, such as genetic sequencing, to see things rather than simply studying them in the scientific sense,” Lonardi said.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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