“All animals, plants, and fungi,” writes National Geographic writer Carl Zimmer, “share an ancestor that lived about 1.6 billion years ago. Every lineage that descended from the progenitor retains parts of its original genome.” So even though every species on the planet are unique they have many genes in common, revealing not only a common origin but also a clue about when a species’s genetic path diverged. For example, by examining the genetic code of related species, scientists have discovered that humans and chimps, that are closely related, shared a common ancestor about five to seven million years ago. Humans and orangutans, also closely related, shared a common ancestor about 14 million years ago. A review of the percentage of DNA that humans share with other species is rather astonishing. So the next time you set out a mousetrap, you may want to consider that you are 88% mouse, making that pesky little creature your genetic cousin.
Wine Grape: 24%
Baker’s Yeast: 18%
Fruit Fly: 47%
Starlet Sea Anemone: 54%
For further reading: “Genes are Us. And Them.” by Carl Zimmer, National Geographic Magazine (July 2013)