Joined: Dec. 2002
|Quote (Ftk @ Sep. 18 2008,20:59)|
|It benefits us because it's one more piece in the vast jigsaw puzzle of the history of how we got here.|
So, it benefits us in an historical sense. It helps us try to solve the puzzle about how we may have evolved from a primitive human via some apeish type ancestor.
Okay, what else. How does finding this jawbone benefit us other than in an historical sense.
I'm taking this question seriously (while noting that "knowledge is intrinsically valuable" has been considered--post Dark Ages, at least--to be a good enough answer):
Great apes (including humans) differ from other mammals, and, indeed, from other primates, in that they appear to have a vastly accelerated rate of genomic segmental duplication. This means that short stretches of DNA appear in multiple copies, either intra- or inter-chromosomally. One consequence of these duplications is that the rate of chromosomal inversions, and of insertion-deletion events is also increased (due to recombination between the duplicated regions).
Many many human diseases appear to be related to specific chromosomal inversions. A lot of these are developmental disorders and/or varieties of cancer.
We can figure out which genes are the "drivers" for various diseases if we can map the origins of the duplications within the primate lineage. In particular, we'd like to know:
1. the rate of duplication events for various classes of duplication;
2. the time of origin of a particular duplication;
3. which copy is 'ancestral';
4. and so forth.
The models we use to map these events depends on an accurate phylogeny of primates. To the extent that fossil evidence can be used to refine the timing of particular events, and the limits to certain critical population parameters, that evidence contributes to the accuracy of the phylogeny.
So: hominid fossil evidence can contribute DIRECTLY to the identification of targets for anti-cancer drugs.
This is not a made-up, ex post facto explanation. For more information on some of the methods used, look up Evan Eichler's lab at UW. For examples of the applications, talk to anyone who's been treated for cancer in the last decade or so.
Although I'm not associated with the Eichler lab, I do apply their results to drug discovery efforts. I suspect that patients who get anti-cancer drugs value the effort taken to learn about primate evolution and to allow the approach described above.