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Humans turn out to be as genetically different from one another as it was previously thought they were different from chimps

Proponents of Evo-Devo, whose practitioners inquire into the developmental significance of various genes, and in so doing have discovered that, among other things, some genes have much more power to shape body plans than others, like to point to the supposed similarity between humans and chimps -- ~99% shared DNA -- to illustrate the power of just a few genes to effect radical changes in the phenotype of an animal. This finding in no way diminishes Evo-Devologists' (Evo-Devonators?) findings, but they might have to find a different handy example to hang their hat on: It turns out that humans may have as little as 99% of their genes in common with one another, and, by the same analysis, as little as 95% of their genes in common with chimpanzees. The results came out of a detailed analysis, published in PLoS Biology, of J. Craig Venter's genome by -- get ready to get meta -- J. Craig Venter himself. (With the help, no doubt, of dozens of his minions at Celera Genomics and/or the J. Craig Venter institute) In the analysis, Venter compared his own genome to the 'standard' genome produced by the official, government-sponsored Human Genome Project (which used a mix of different individuals' DNA). A second, as yet unpublished analysis of the recently-completed genome of James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, appears to have yielded similar results. No telling what this ultimately really means, since both the original value for how similar humans are to one another -- 99.9% similar -- and the new value are somewhat arbitrary numbers until we know what all those genes do. I recommend you check back at this blog in about 50 years. Study: Humans' DNA not quite so similar | AP

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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