The ability of humans to develop a proficient spoken language has probably driven the development of a culture distinct from that of chimpanzees and other apes. Speech depends on fine control of the larynx and mouth, which our closest relatives lack. FOXP2, a member of the forkhead transcription factor family, was the first gene associated with the development of speech and language in humans. A point mutation in FOXP2 is associated with a severe speech and language disorder in a family in which half the members are affected. In the 14 August advanced online Nature, Svante Pääbo and researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leibzig, Germany, and the University of Oxford, UK, report that two amino-acid changes in human FOXP2 have been under positive selection in the human lineage and were probably fixed at (or following) the time when modern humans emerged (...

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