Apr 20, 2012 - genetics 101

Genetic Similarities of Mice and Men

23andMe celebrates genetic diversity but today we’d like to celebrate our genetic similarities — to other organisms.  You are no rabbit or chicken (or, if you are, you are a truly impressive rabbit or chicken to be reading this blog). Rather, your DNA contains all the instructions for making you human. All humans have essentially the same set of genes, but you actually share many of these genes with other animals and even plants.

Chimpanzees, our closest living animal cousins share 98% of our human genes, meaning that for 98% of our genes, there is a similar gene in the chimpanzee genome. Even mammals that look quite different from us share a large percentage of our genes; small and furry mice share 92% our genes.

See how genetically similar you are to other people using the Compare Genes feature or see how much DNA you share with Neanderthals in your 23andMe account.

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Non-mammals share a smaller, but still appreciable, percentage of our genes.  Fruit flies, for instance, have their own version of approximately 44% our human genes. Many of these genes influence growth and structure in both mammals and insects. More distantly related is yeast, the one-celled organism much loved by bakers and brewers alike. Yeast share about a quarter of our genes, many of which are necessary for basic cell functions.  Plants, too, share many genes with humans; one type of weed was estimated to share 18% of our genes.

DNA is what makes us unique as individuals and as the human species, and yet DNA also illustrates how connected we are to all other living organisms. Now that’s something to celebrate!

The concept for today’s post was suggested by a 23andMe customer.  The percentages presented above can be found at the Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Science website.

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