Primate genome project releases data on 27 primate species

File photo: CGTN

KUNMING, June 2 (Xinhua) -- The Primate Genome Project, a joint research effort involving over 100 scientists from countries including China, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and so on, has announced its latest advance in primate genomics, releasing genome data of 27 primate species on Friday (Beijing Time) in the journal Science.

Initiated by the Kunming Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 2018, the project involves researchers from more than 50 institutes and colleges across the globe.

The joint study aims to complete the genetic sequencing of more than 520 known primates on Earth in three phases within a decade, to determine the DNA sequence of each primate species, and to draw a primate genome map, thus helping decipher the genetic information of these "close relatives" of human beings. The study is expected to pave the way for the protection of primates and the development of life science, medicine and other fields.

Phase I of the project has now been completed, with a group of eight papers published in the journal Science. The papers contain genome data of species including rare and endangered species like the golden snub-nosed monkey and the tarsier.

Wu Dongdong, the project's chief scientist with the Kunming Institute of Zoology, said that the latest research results help clarify the phylogenetic relationships of primates, reveal the genome diversity and evolutionary history of primates, draw the genetic variation map of non-human primates, and speculate about the potential functions of some key gene mutations.

Notably, their research has found that the primates, whose ancestors were nocturnal, quickly developed red, green, and blue color vision when they became diurnal. "Their tricolor vision allows them to distinguish ripe fruits. And their sweet-sensing genes began to change. Our analyses of the sequence of genetic evolution can help us better understand the origins of primates, especially human beings," said Wu.

Mentioning another major research program, the Human Genome Project, Wu said that each of us has unique 3 billion base pairs and through the Primate Genome Project, the researchers also hope to decipher the genomes of the more than 520 primate species on Earth and understand their genetic codes.