Getting Familiar

10 MYA

Breakthroughs in molecular biology are revolutionizing our understanding of the history and relationships of hominid primates. Orangutans depart from the combined African great ape and human line about 13 million years ago (MYA). The great ape (or gorilla) lineage splits from the combined chimpanzee and human lineage some eight MYA. We share over 99 percent of expressed DNA with gorillas. This does not mean that we are "descended" from gorillas, but rather, that we last shared a common ancestor eight MYA.

The Indian species Ramopithecus punjabicus, an ape speculatively reconstructed here from fossil evidence, belongs to the family Hominidae. (Illustration by Zdenek Burian, Jiri Hochman and Martin Hochman)

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