How similar are human DNA and chimpanzee DNA?

How did life begin?
How did life begin?

Now, I’m not an expert in DNA sequencing similarities, here is paper from Nature which argued for more distance between human and chimp genomes than the 98% similarity commonly asserted by Darwinists.

Evolution News covered that one:

A Nature paper from January, 2010 titled, “Chimpanzee and human Y chromosomes are remarkably divergent in structure and gene content,” found that Y chromosomes in humans and chimps “differ radically in sequence structure and gene content,” showing “extraordinary divergence” where “wholesale renovation is the paramount theme.” Of course, the paper attributes these dramatic genetic changes to “rapid evolution during the past 6 million years.”

One of the scientists behind the study was quoted in a Nature news article stating, “It looks like there’s been a dramatic renovation or reinvention of the Y chromosome in the chimpanzee and human lineages.” The news article states that “many of the stark changes between the chimp and human Y chromosomes are due to gene loss in the chimp and gene gain in the human” since “the chimp Y chromosome has only two-thirds as many distinct genes or gene families as the human Y chromosome and only 47% as many protein-coding elements as humans.” According to the news piece, “Even more striking than the gene loss is the rearrangement of large portions of the chromosome. More than 30% of the chimp Y chromosome lacks an alignable counterpart on the human Y chromosome, and vice versa, whereas this is true for less than 2% of the remainder of the genome.”

But not wishing to offend the “myth of 1%”, the Nature news article carefully adds, “The remainder of the chimp and human genomes are thought to differ in gene number by less than 1%.”

A more recent paper (PDF) from PNAS (edited by arch-evolutionist Francisco Ayala, no less) has more.

Here’s the abstract:

The rise of comparative genomics and related technologies has added important new dimensions to the study of human evolution. Our knowledge of the genes that underwent expression changes or were targets of positive selection in human evolution is rapidly increasing, as is our knowledge of gene duplications, translocations, and deletions. It is now clear that the genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees are far more extensive than previously thought; their genomes are not 98% or 99% identical. Despite the rapid growth in our understanding of the evolution of the human genome, our understanding of the relationship be-tween genetic changes and phenotypic changes is tenuous. This is true even for the most intensively studied gene, FOXP2, which underwent positive selection in the human terminal lineage and is thought to have played an important role in the evolution of human speech and language. In part, the difficulty of connecting genes to phenotypes reflects our generally poor knowledge of human phenotypic specializations, as well as the difficulty of interpreting the consequences of genetic changes in species that are not amenable to invasive research. On the positive side, investigations of FOXP2, along with genomewide surveys of gene-expression changes and selection-driven sequence changes, offer the opportunity for “phenotype discovery,” providing clues to human phenotypic specializations that were previously unsuspected. What is more, at least some of the specializations that have been proposed are amenable to testing with noninvasive experimental techniques appropriate for the study of humans and apes.

Again, I’m not sure what the exact numbers are, this is not my area, but I think it’s interesting. I know that ICR is doing some work on computing the average level of difference across both genomes.

5 thoughts on “How similar are human DNA and chimpanzee DNA?”

  1. It’s also worth pointing out that chimps have 24 pairs of chromosomes while humans have 23. The usual response to this well-known issue is that two of the chimp chromosomes fused together somewhere in the lineage leading to humans. They even label the chimp chromosomes 2A and 2B to correspond to human chromosome 2. They claim there’s a region in the middle of human chromosome 2 that is a remnant of the ends (telomeres) of the two chromosomes that fused together.

    But this explanation is extremely problematic. The sequence thought to be a degraded telomere sequence is only marginally similar to a telomere sequence and there are no other known cases of telomere-telomere fusion. We know what it looks like when chromosomes fuse together. That’s known and documented. The supposed fusion site on human chromosome 2 doesn’t look like known fusion sites. But the biggest problem with the fusion hypothesis is that the hypothesized fusion site actually contains an active gene on one strand – a gene with 2 different transcripts and that is highly expressed in multiple tissues of the body. So the idea that this is just an evolutionary leftover of a fusion is extremely problematic at best, and downright ridiculous at worst.


  2. Thanks for this article, WK. I am a scientist by profession, and I love my work. I even have a tattoo remarkably similar to the diagram shown!
    I went through undergraduate biology with the prevalent myth that humans and chimps are 99% identical. Then they were 95% identical. Now this. When I was a postgrad, it was thought that introns were massive amounts of “junk DNA” that was useless, and that humans only needed to express 30 000 genes to be fully human. Then it was found that introns produce massive amounts of regulating RNA which fine tunes gene expression (!)
    Many, many times in Science, scientists will write up material based on their interpretation of the data they have. More data comes out to contradict their “thesis”. It seems that in molecular science, the same story about Ernst Haekel’s embryology

    occurs: the story keeps repeating even after it has been discredited.
    The best way to prove this is to compare human and chimp genomes. let’s see just how different, or similar, they are.
    Ironically, it is always Christian scientists who are ahead of the curve on this, because the debate is importnt to them so they familiarise themselves with the data whereas atheistic scientists frequently are backward.


    1. Yes, Haeckel’s embryos are a known fraud, but it keeps getting recycled in all the textbooks anyway. It’s stuff like this that turns me off of Darwinism. Let them prove what they can, but why do they have to say that they have a complete theory when they don’t?


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