The Amazing Chimps Facts: Similarities Between Chimpanzees and Humans

To put it another way: we could take 99 percent of a gorilla’s DNA and substitute it for that of a human being’s-and no one could tell the difference. Over the coming decades, that crucial one percent will be the focus of some fascinating research into what sets us so very far apart from the apes.

The Amazing Chimps Facts: Similarities Between Chimpanzees and Humans

By Mr Ghaz, June 19, 2010

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The Amazing Chimps Facts: Similarities Between Chimpanzees and Humans

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We owe this new insight to the research of Professor Maurice Goodman of Wayne State University in Detroit. He and other biologists who have been analyzing the genetic makeup of humans and the great apes have come up with a startling fact: the difference between humans and the two African great apes-gorillas and chimpanzees-can is categorized as only 1 percent.

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Life Studies

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Before scientists learned how to study the actual molecules of life, they relied on such crude features as body shape and the physical similarities between organs and limbs in order to determine how closely related two different species might be. It was little better that educated guesswork. But now that scientists can analyze the genetic material common to all plants and animal, DNA, piece by piece, they can exchange that guesswork for something more like certainty.

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DNA is a kind of blueprint, a set of instructions that tells a living thing how to grow and develop, how to repair itself, how to make the countless different molecules it needs daily. Chief among those molecules are the proteins, which are necessary for everything from muscles to the chemicals that ferry messages within and between the cells of every organism.

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In studies of evolution, it has proved quicker to examine similarities between proteins rather than similarities the DNA on which they are based. The faster method is just as reliable; if the proteins are different at one particular location, it can only be because the DNA, too, is different at the corresponding location in the blueprint.

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A protein molecule is fairly easy to analyze, because it is composed of, at most, just 20 different submolecules, known as amino acids. Therefore, although some proteins may be made up of hundreds of such submolecules, there are only 20 different kinds to identify. One protein in particular-hemoglobin, the pigment that gives blood its red color-has now been completely analyzed in hundreds of different species. It proves to be a chain of 141 amino acid units.

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Relative Differences

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In all the animals that possess this protein molecule, the sequence of the amino acid chain is similar enough for scientists to be able to say, “That’s hemoglobin.” But the precise details vary from species to species. For instance, when comparing the Japanese monkey with humans, we find we share 137 amino acids in identical sequence; only four are in a different order. Dogs, however, differ from humans at 23 locations along the molecule. So they are at least five times more distantly related to humans than is the Japanese monkey.

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By comparing not just hemoglobin’s but dozens of other proteins common to many species, biologists can express the differences between any two species as a percentage. According to this yardstick, humans and apes are just 1 percent apart.

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Such differences act as a kind of clock, ticking out the aeons of evolutionary time. According to our clock, this means that humans and the apes have a common ancestor who lived about 5 million years ago (or 10, say more conservative biologists). The differences between humans and the apes, and among the apes themselves, have arisen since then.

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To put it another way: we could take 99 percent of a gorilla’s DNA and substitute it for that of a human being’s-and no one could tell the difference. Over the coming decades, that crucial 1 percent will be the focus of some fascinating research into what sets us so very far apart from the apes.

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16 Responses to “The Amazing Chimps Facts: Similarities Between Chimpanzees and Humans”
  1. CHAN LEE PENG Says...

    On June 19, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Thanks for your clear explanation on the similarities between chimpanzees and humans. I’m in class learning useful lesson from you. Thanks and liked it.


  2. Susan Says...

    On June 19, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Here in NY, a woman gave a chimp a psychotropic drug, on of the antidepressants, and the chimp went into a rage and bit another woman’s face off. The interesting thing is that these antidepressants are the same drugs that cause kids (and adults) to go on shooting rampages. Doubtful if the drugs would do that with dogs or cats.


  3. Starpisces Says...

    On June 19, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Yah, there are similarities between chimpanzees and humans, thanks for telling us.
    :)


  4. Phill Senters Says...

    On June 19, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Sometimes I think we may be too much alike. LOL


  5. Anuradha Ramkumar Says...

    On June 19, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Excellent information, well researched and neatly presented. I’m amazed to note so much similarities between humans and chimpanzees.


  6. T. S. GARP Says...

    On June 19, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    The similarities are amazing. Great information and research. :)


  7. Tim Quin Says...

    On June 19, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    @ Susan, I saw a show a couple years ago, about a dog that was obsessive compulsive about this nasty dirty piece of rope. They gave the dog prozac and he acted far more normal about the rope.

    Its not widely known, but anti-depressants work by breaking up patterns of behavior. You simply can’t stay in a rut because the drug is disturbing your patterns of thought.

    Some drugs will be very species specific others could be largely universal.

    I don’t recommend anti-depressants btw, supplements and exercise have been proven to work better.


  8. Joie Schmidt Says...

    On June 20, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Very interesting as always!

    Blessings.

    Sincerely,

    -Joie Schmidt.


  9. Likha Says...

    On June 20, 2010 at 11:49 am

    There’s still much more to discover about life in this planet. Thanks for adding to my store of knowledge.I also love your pictures.


  10. Mark Gordon Brown Says...

    On June 20, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Good facts and great pictures. 1 percent apart wow.


  11. LoveDoctor Says...

    On June 22, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Wow! only 1%. This is a very interesting article on evolution. I love chimpanzees. They are super cute. I wish I had one. Nice diagrams you provided. This is the type of stuff that should be on Hot content not some of the garbage that tends to show up such as fake celebrity deaths.


  12. saqlain Says...

    On June 23, 2010 at 9:30 am

    there is too informative.intersting,and also amazing,i like that v.much


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  14. papaleng Says...

    On January 31, 2011 at 12:46 am

    cool post. Well-explained similarities.


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    On February 17, 2011 at 4:56 am

    interesting – the science is though provoking and some of the pictures are so cute!! Stumbled this for you…


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