Which genes have shifted in evolutionary rates during the history of the Primates (monkeys, apes and humans); and what does the function of these genes tell us about adaptation in our Order? The aim of this proposal is to investigate changes in the speed of primate gene evolution, using complete genome sequences from at least six species of Primates augmented by data from other species in the Order, including Neanderthals. The specific aims of the proposal are i) to identify functional classes of genes (e.g. cognition and immune system) whose rates of evolution diverge from general trends in primate gene evolution, ii) to build a picture of the gene functions that characterise human evolution integrated over the 20,000 to 25,000 human genes, and iii) to relate these functional classes to selective processes at the level of primate ecology (e.g. parasitism, predation, mating system and social behaviour). The work will require novel bioinformatics and comparative methods that can identify genes whose evolution varies in rate and mode throughout the primate tree, and these be developed and made freely available to other scientists. By building on a wider set of species and genes than previously studied the results of the research will provide the first “whole genome functional map” perspective of the conserved and altered gene functions occurring during the evolution of the lineage leading to modern humans.
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