Orangutans, the most distant of our great ape relatives, changed less in 15 million years than our species has in 200,000. And yet orangutans also have tremendous genetic diversity, an apparent contradiction that has created a strange evolutionary riddle.
The most shocking has to be that the orangutan genome hasn’t changed in 15 million years. To put that in some perspective, our species didn’t even really exist until 200,000 years ago, and even the Homo genus doesn’t stretch much further back than 2.4 million years. Chimpanzees don’t become distinct from our evolutionary ancestors until about six million years ago, and gorillas don’t emerge until about 7 million years ago. Orangutans are, by the standards of the rest of their family, an incredibly ancient species.
As for why all humans are more similar than any two orangs or chimps, have a clicky here.
Yep, 70,000 years go, there were only around 15,000 humans in the whole world. Every one of us is a descendent from that band (or bands) of survivors.
Isn’t it strange to think how worked up we get about “races” and suchlike when we’re all sisters and brothers. 🙂