Orang-utans are members. So are chimpanzees. As are humans. Now, with the addition of the gorilla, scientists have unravelled the whole set of great ape genomes (genetic codes).
Now that Cambridge researchers have sequenced and scanned over 11,000 gorilla genes, it is possible to fully compare the four great apes on a molecular basis.
Results, as expected, show that orang-utans diverged earliest from other hominids (great apes) some 14 million years ago. Gorillas branched off next around 10 million years ago, followed by our closest relative the chimpanzee a mere 6 million years ago.
Logically this translates into the percentage similarities of the human genome with those of our great ape cousins:
Orang-utans – 97%
Gorillas – 98%
Chimpanzees – 99%
Intriguingly, 15% of the human genome is closest related to the gorilla version, suggesting shared inherent traits perhaps in the form of hearing.
Our knuckle-walking, sexually dimorphic relatives clearly have a lot of clues left to disclose in terms of human evolution.
Read the BBC News story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17239059
Paper: Scally, A., et al. 2011. Insights into hominid evolution from the gorilla genome sequence. Nature 483, 169-175. Link here.