Humans and chimpanzees, how similar are we?

Nov 20, 2006
A chimpanzee

The DNA sequences of humans and chimpanzees are 98.5 percent identical, but now Uppsala University researchers can show that parts of the genetic material are missing in one species or the other.

This means in some cases that humans can produce a protein that the chimpanzee lacks and vice versa. The study, being published in the November issue of the Journal of Molecular Evolution, estimates that the total variation between humans and chimpanzees is rather 6–7 percent.

The chimpanzee, together with the pygmy chimpanzee (the bonobo), is the closest relative to humans still in existence. Even though the similarities between chimpanzees and human are obvious, there are clear differences in body structure, intellect, and behavior, etc. In the more than five million years that have passed since the developmental lines of humans and chimpanzees parted, mutations have altered the genes. A key issue for researchers studying the evolutionary history of humans and chimpanzees is to understand which of these differences have been crucial to the development of the species and their unique characteristics.

Tomas Bergström and his research team at the Department of Genetics and Pathology have compared the DNA sequence from chromosome 21 in humans and chimpanzees to map where the genetic differences are found and what significance this might have. The findings corroborate other studies that indicate that in 1.5 percent of the genetic material a nucleotide (genetic letter) has been replaced by another nucleotide. But the findings also show that more than 5 percent of the genetic material occurs in only one of the species. In both species, DNA has been added or lost. In other words, the total difference is estimated at 6.5 percent. Even though most of the differences occur, as expected, in parts of the genetic material that do not contain genes, the research team has found that pieces of DNA have been added or lost in 13 percent of the genes. Some genes (5 percent) have undergone such major changes that certain proteins can probably not be produced by one of the species.

“It is probable that a species can compensate for this by producing a similar protein from another part of the gene, but some of these differences have clearly been crucial to the development of the species,” says Tomas Bergström.

Source: Uppsala Universitet

Explore further: Norway tests out 'animal rights cops'

Related Stories

Claims about the decline of the West are 'exaggerated'

3 hours ago

A new paper by Oxford researchers argues that some countries in Western Europe, and the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand now have birth rates that are now relatively close to replacement, that the underlying trend in ...

Norway tests out 'animal rights cops'

4 hours ago

Norwegian police is creating a unit to investigate cruelty to animals, the government said Monday, arguing that those who hurt animals often harm people too.

Recommended for you

Norway tests out 'animal rights cops'

4 hours ago

Norwegian police is creating a unit to investigate cruelty to animals, the government said Monday, arguing that those who hurt animals often harm people too.

High-pitched sounds cause seizures in old cats

6 hours ago

When the charity International Cat Care asked veterinary neurologists at Davies Veterinary Specialists, UK, for help with several enquiries it had received regarding cats having seizures, seemingly in response ...

Rare dune plants thrive on disturbance

7 hours ago

Beginning in the 1880s, coastal dunes in the United States were planted with European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) in an attempt to hold the sand in place and prevent it from migrating. The grass did th ...

How an RNA gene silences a whole chromosome

9 hours ago

Researchers at Caltech have discovered how an abundant class of RNA genes, called long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs, pronounced link RNAs) can regulate key genes. By studying an important lncRNA, called Xist, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.