Just 7 per cent of our DNA is unique
What makes humans unique? Scientists have taken another step toward solving an enduring mystery with a new tool that may allow for more precise comparisons between the DNA of modern humans and that of our extinct ancestors. Just 7 per cent of our genome is uniquely shared with other humans, and not shared by other early ancestors, according to a study published in the journal Science Advances.
- The research draws upon DNA extracted from fossil remains of now-extinct Neanderthals and Denisovans dating back to around 40,000 or 50,000 years ago, as well as from 279 modern people from around the world.
- Scientists already know that modern people share some DNA with Neanderthals, but different people share different parts of the genome.
- One goal of the new research was to identify the genes that are exclusive to modern humans It’s a difficult statistical problem, and the researchers “developed a valuable tool that takes account of missing data in the ancient genomes.
- The researchers also found that an even smaller fraction of our genome — just 1.5 per cent — is both unique to our species and shared among all people alive today.
- Those slivers of DNA may hold the most significant clues as to what truly distinguishes modern human beings.