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Are you wondering where are you from? Beyond your family tree? Your closest relative in terms of genetics are the apes and yet there are different types (gibbons, orang-utans, gorillas and chimpanzees). How is diversity naturally regulated? And how is genetics helping us understand how we become different form each other? Come along and learn how two brilliant scientists are using animals as big as apes and as small as springtails to understand the genetic basis of diversity.
Planet of the apes
The closest living relatives of people are the other apes: gibbons, orang-utans, gorillas and chimpanzees. The non-human apes (yes, we are apes, too) have a very limited diversity and distribution now, but were much more widespread and numerous in the past. When did the apes first appear? Where did they come from? What differentiated them from monkeys? The answers to these questions lie in the fossil record of the Miocene, a time period that spans from 25 to 5 million years ago. Let's go back in time to a warmer, wetter world to see how our ancestors created a real Planet of the Apes.
How genetics is revolutionising our view of the natural world
Advances in gene sequencing are transforming our view of the diversity of the natural world and how to conserve it. New genetic tools are resulting in us discovering new species right under our noses, including new species of animals called springtails in the very soil we walk on every day. This is having important effects on biodiversity management, including locally at the Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve, for which I am the warden.