Language is a uniquely human trait likely to have been a prerequisite for the development of human culture. The ability to develop articulate speech relies on capabilities, such as fine control of the larynx and mouth, that are absent in chimpanzees and other great apes.
FOXP2 is the first gene relevant to the human ability to develop language. A point mutation in FOXP2 co-segregates with a disorder in a family in which half of the members have severe articulation difficulties accompanied by linguistic and grammatical impairment.
This gene is disrupted by translocation in an unrelated individual who has a similar disorder. Thus, two functional copies of FOXP2 seem to be required for acquisition of normal spoken language.
We sequenced the complementary DNAs that encode the FOXP2 protein in the chimpanzee, gorilla, orang-utan, rhesus macaque and mouse, and compared them with the human cDNA.
Here we show that human FOXP2 contains changes in amino-acid coding and a pattern of nucleotide polymorphism, which strongly suggest that this gene has been the target of selection during recent human evolution.
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[This is interesting..I will have to check out this article at the library when I go back to school next week because I no longer have my subscription to Nature. So, I guess this gene has something to do with the development of our mouth and larynx? Or maybe parts of the human brain that have to do with human language and speech? I wonder if there is a study out there done to compare the areas of human versus ape brains that control speech? Hmmm...anyway..enough ranting. - Nanochick]