July 6, 2024 at 2:15 pm

Humans and Chimpanzees Share 96% Of Their Genetic Code, So Why Are We Still So Different?

by Melissa Triebwasser

Source: Shutterstock

Chimps, they’re just like us!

Well, almost.

Chimpanzees and Bonobos are human’s closest living relative. But even though the two species share approximately 96 percent of their genetic code, there are plenty of differences between the two.

Scientists in 2005 were able to sequence the genome of a chimp named Clint, revealing just how much of the genetic code was shared with humans, furthering the theory that the two had split from a common ancestor some six million years ago.

But for how alike man and chimp are, there are plenty of differences, too. How does that happen?

Source: Unsplash/Francesco Ungaro
Much of this difference is accounted for by duplication, a process where sections of the genome are repeated in one species but not the other.

Yet, despite millions of years of that process, 98.8 percent of human’s genetic code is found in chimpanzees.

That means only 1.2 percent of our genetic code differs.

Though it might not sound like much, the human genome consists of around three billion base pairs (bits of genetic information) meaning that the small percentage adds up to around 35 million discrepancies between the two species.

Source: Shutterstock

Where do these differences show up? Primarily in what are known as transcription factors, or genetic switches that tell different genes when to become activated and when to remain dormant.

The pattern of activation varies significantly between the two species, with humans having an activation pattern that gives them a larger and more developed brain than their chimpanzee cousins.

It basically comes down to a small section of the genome that controls the degree of cell division within the nervous system, rather than the actual genes that code for the creation of different neurons.

We get to drive, and chimps have better immune systems.

Seems like a fair trade-off, I guess.

Chimps and humans are the best example of how just a few tweaks in DNA can not only change a person’s eye color, but create a whole new species!

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