• Question: how do human genes compare to animal genes

    Asked by georgescutt to Amelia, Jim, Liz, Prateek, Richard on 21 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Prateek Buch

      Prateek Buch answered on 19 Jun 2011:

      what a great question! Genes are bits of DNA that spell a code for a particular protein. Often, humans and other animals use the same protein to do the same job in their cells, but they spell the DNA code for that protein differently -a bit like how the Americans spell the word ‘color’ differently to us in the UK who spell it ‘colour’ – still means the same thing, but the sequence of letters is different.
      In this way the sequence of many genes varies between animals and humans – in fact you can use this variation to tell how closely related two species are. Sometimes, even though animal gene differ in their detailed sequence to human ones, you can replace a broken (mutated) animal gene for a human one and it will still work!

    • Photo: Richard Badge

      Richard Badge answered on 19 Jun 2011:

      As Prateek says – human and non-human animal (we are animals too!) genes are often very similar, and how similar they are is determined by how long ago the animal shared a common ancestor with humans – i.e. how far back in time you have to go to find an organism that is at the junction of the lineages that led to humans and your animal of interest…

      There is a very cool website (and iphone app) that can tell you the evolutionary time between any two species, based on the latest data: http://timetree.org/

      So I shared a common ancestor with the fire-bellied toad 360 million years ago!

    • Photo: Lizzard O'Day

      Lizzard O'Day answered on 20 Jun 2011:

      Well humans are part of the animal kingdom.. but if you’re asking how human genes are in relation to let’s say a monkey well it’s quite interesting. we’re pretty similar. We use a lot of same machinery in our cells to carry out day to day life functions. There are subtle markers that do make us different- and these small differences (less than 10% of our DNA) is what causes the wide array of diversity living animals on the planet- how cool!

    • Photo: Amelia Markey

      Amelia Markey answered on 21 Jun 2011:

      I think this has been pretty well covered by the other scientists.

      We are animals but all of the animals have similarities and differences in the code of their DNA but the structure of the DNA is the same for all of us. The closer we are related to each other in evolutionary terms can be seen by how similar our DNA code is.