How Genetically Similar Are We To Other Life Forms?

Spread the love

Comparing Genetic Similarities Between Humans and Other Life Forms

Can I share this graphic?
Yes. Visualizations are free to share and post in their original form across the web—even for publishers. Please link back to this page and attribute Visual Capitalist.
When do I need a license?
Licenses are required for some commercial uses, translations, or layout modifications. You can even whitelabel our visualizations. Explore your options.
Interested in this piece?
Click here to license this visualization.

The Briefing

  • Chimps are 98.8% genetically similar, making them one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom
  • The genetic similarity between humans and fruit flies is 60%

Comparing Human Genetic Similarity to Other Life Forms

Of the three billion genetic building blocks that make us living things, only a handful are uniquely ours. In fact, despite our differences on the outside, humans are 99.9% genetically similar to one another.

But how alike are we to other, non-human life forms? Turns out, we’re a lot more similar than you might think.

Comparative Genomics 101

First, how do scientists compare the genetic makeup of various life forms?

Comparative genomics is a branch of biology that compares genome sequences across different species to identify their similarities and differences.

This field of research is important because it:

  • Helps us better understand evolution, and how living things have adapted over time.
  • Builds knowledge around genes and how they influence various systems in our bodies.
  • Has wider applications in agriculture, especially in conservation efforts among endangered species.

According to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), scientists have already sequenced the genomes of more than 250 animal species, as well as 50 bird species.

Human Genetic Makeup vs. Other Life Forms

Perhaps unsurprisingly, chimps are one of our closest genetic relatives in the animal kingdom.

Because of our similarities, chimpanzees have a similar immune system to humans, which means they’re susceptible to viruses such as AIDS and hepatitis.

Though chimps are one of our closest relatives, other species are strongly linked to humans as well—and not necessarily the ones you’d think.

Category Genetic Similarity
Humans and Humans 99.9%
Humans and Chimps 98.8%
Humans and Dogs 94%
Humans and Cats 90%
Humans and Cows 80%
Humans and Fruit Flies 60%
Humans and Bananas 60%

For instance, according to NHGRI, fruit flies are 60% genetically similar to humans.

This may sound confusing at first, since humans and insects couldn’t be more physically different. However, because we share many of the same essential needs to sustain life, such as the need for oxygen, these similarities are reflected in our genetics.

DNA vs Genes

It’s important to note that being genetically similar to something is different than sharing the same DNA. That’s because genes (the part of DNA responsible for making protein) only account for up to 2% of your DNA, while the rest of your genome is made up of what scientists call “non-coding DNA.”

So while a banana is 60% genetically similar to humans, only 1.2% of our DNA is shared.

» Like this? Then check out this article on Earth’s Biomass

Where does this data come from?

Sources: National Human Genome Research Institute, Genome Research, Science Magazine
Details:: This post was inspired by an article published in Business Insider

The post How Genetically Similar Are We To Other Life Forms? appeared first on Visual Capitalist.


Spread the love
Comments are closed.