All Animals Evolve, as Zoo DNA Studies Reveal

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 18, 2005 | Go to article overview

All Animals Evolve, as Zoo DNA Studies Reveal


Byline: J. Hope Babowice

You wanted to know

Gina Tremmel and Kyle Licocci of Libertyville wanted to know:

What is the difference between a monkey's DNA and a gorilla's DNA? Did monkeys evolve and are they still evolving today?

- If you have a question you'd like Kids Ink to answer, write Kids Ink, care of the Daily Herald, 50 Lakeview Parkway, Suite 104, Vernon Hills, IL 60061 or send an e-mail to lake@@dailyherald.com. Along with the question, include your name, age, phone number, hometown, grade and school.

To learn more about DNA and the great apes, the Grayslake Area Public Library suggests

- "The Nature of Great Apes: Our Next of Kin" by Michelle A. Gilders

- "The Great Apes" by Geoffrey C. Saign

- "Apes and Other Hairy Primates" by Richard Platt

- "DNA" by Alvin Silverstein, Virginia Silverstein, and Laura Silverstein Nunn

- "Genetics: the Study of Heredity" by Ian Graham

- "Enjoy Your Cells" by Fran Balkwill and Mic Rolph

"What is the difference between a monkey's DNA and a gorilla's DNA?," asked Gina Tremmel, 13, a seventh-grader at Highland Middle School in Libertyville. Kyle Licocci, also 13 and a Highland seventh-grader, asked, "Did monkeys evolve and are they still evolving today?"

Zoos are very interested in studying questions like these. One of the main missions of zoos is to help to protect species in the wild. By studying the genetics of various species in captivity, they can help determine needs of species in the wild and make necessary changes to help preserve those animals.

"Depending on which gene you pick, I can tell what an animal was doing a year ago or what their ancestors were doing," said Jean Dubach, a population geneticist with the Brookfield Zoo.

Brookfield is one of five zoos in the United States with a genetics laboratory. The zoo is working on a number of studies at this time, including a collaborative study with the Milwaukee County Zoo. Milwaukee experts studied Humboldt penguins in their native Chilean habitat and obtained blood samples for DNA analysis by the Brookfield lab. The wild penguins were compared with the entire captive North American population of Humboldt penguins to see how much genetic variability they retained after several generations in captivity. …

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