May 28, 2009 10:40 AM Subscribe
We will speak to the Mouse. FoxP2
posted by Cold Lurkey (56 comments total)
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, a forkhead box transcription factor has long been thought to be the "language gene", as all animals that have it can communicate verbally. Without it, songbirds don't learn their songs
, humans can't speak properly
and mice can't make their sweet ultrasonic sounds
. Human Foxp2 has been claimed to be a site of recent, strong selection in the human genome, with several alterations in sequence from our most closely related ancestors. So the question: Is the human version of FoxP2 itself a determinant for our ability to speak in ways our chimp cousins cannot?Svante Paabo
, who you may know from the Neanderthal genome work, has just published a study of Foxp2 humanized mice
. Alas, the gene does not seem to function correctly, in the mousely brain context, and the ultrasonic vocalizations of the humanized mice are impaired. Apparently a single gene is not enough to humanize.
But what if it worked? what sort of world would we be living in if the reverse Doolittle were possible?
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