Humans don’t walk with tails probably because of this genetic mutation| Trending Viral hub

The monkey tail is one of nature’s most wonderful tools in the treetops. Balancing their bodies As they traverse branches, the tail is a useful adaptation for monkeys. But why wasn’t tail beneficial to our ancient ancestors, the apes? At some point in the evolutionary timeline, apes lost their tails and in turn helped humans become human.

How this happened has intrigued a host of scientists over the years, including Bo Xia, a geneticist at the Broad Institute, an independent institution linked to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

Searching for the origins of taillessness in apes (the group that today includes chimpanzees, gorillas, humans and more), Xia and his colleagues compared the genes of tailless apes and tailed monkeys, identifying at least one of the genetic mutations that led to the loss of the tail. , in a new study published in Nature.

“Our study begins to explain how evolution eliminated our tails,” Xia says in a statement“a question that has intrigued me since I was young.”

Read more: Humanity’s first ancestors were apes that walked upright

Why did apes lose their tails?

about 25 million years ago, the apes were separated from the monkeys and removed their tails. As fewer and fewer tail vertebrae evolved throughout this division, its arboreal-adapted fifth appendage eventually transformed from a tail to a tailbone.

Xia and his colleagues theorized that the apes’ lack of tails likely improved their locomotion. In fact, Some scientists say the absence of a tail simplified life on land for our ancient ancestors, paving the way for the upright, bipedal movement of modern humans.

As they diverged from the monkeys, the apes began to transition to an increasingly terrestrial, rather than arboreal, lifestyle. Instead of running on all fours along the tops of branches, they spent their time swinging beneath the branches in an orthograde or upright posture, including sitting, standing, or walking. walking on the ground.

This orthograde posture probably allowed them to grasp fruit and foliage with greater agility, only with a tail prevent this new movement mechanism.

“It has long been speculated that the loss of the tail in hominoids,” including apes and humans, “contributed to orthograde and bipedal locomotion, the evolutionary emergence of which coincided with the loss of the tail,” Xia and colleagues write. colleagues in your article. “The specific evolutionary pressures related to tail loss in hominoids are unclear, although they are likely involved in improved locomotion in the transition to a non-arboreal lifestyle.”

Read more: If humans evolved from apes, why do apes still exist?

How did apes lose their tails?

According to the new paper, a genetic mutation in our ancient ancestors is due to our lack of a tail. At the beginning of their search, Xia and her colleagues suspected that apes shed their tails by mutating specific genes. As for the identity of these specific genes, there were many possibilities, as there are believed to be around 100 impacts tail length only in mice.

By studying iterations of these genes in 21 different species, including 6 apes and 15 monkeys, the team found a mutation (an insertion of genetic code in the TBXT gene) present in the former, including humans, and not present in the latter. .

Testing its identification, the team then inserted this mutation into developing mice before their birth using CRISPR technology to see if it would affect their tails. The engineered mice, which were born without tails, suggest that the TBXT mutation was one of the genetic tweaks behind the lack of a tail.

Read more: How closely related are humans to apes?

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