Edward M. Marcotte is looking for drugs that can kill tumors by stopping blood vessel growth, and he and his colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin recently found some good targets — five human genes that are essential for that growth. Now they’re hunting for drugs that can stop those genes from working. Strangely, though, Dr. Marcotte did not discover the new genes in the human genome, nor in lab mice or even fruit flies. He and his colleagues found the genes in yeast.
Ms. [Natalie] Angier hopes future studies prove we are more closely related to bonobos than to common chimps. Even Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson, the dour authors of "Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence" ask, "Those loving bonobos -- did we pick the wrong primate to evolve from?" Dr. De Waal asserts that the news about the bonobo lifestyle "commands attention because the bonobo shares more than 98 percent of our genetic profile … making it as close to a human as, say, a fox is to a dog. The split between the human line of ancestry and the line of the chimpanzee and the bonobo is believed to have occurred a mere eight million years ago." ...
Fifth, the oft-cited 98% figure for shared DNA is less impressive than it looks. Most DNA is unused, so natural selection never changes it. Another big chunk of your personal DNA controls the basics of earthly carbon-based life, and is extremely common across multitudinous organisms. Thus, one study found we share 70% of our DNA with yeast! Perhaps if you don't have a great ape around, you can scrape by letting a packet of Fleischmann's Quick-Rise pinch-hit as your role model. De Waal's statement that a chimp is as genetically similar to a human as a fox is to a dog may be true, but it should remind us of the striking number of gene-driven differences seen merely among dog breeds. A collie is identical to a pit bull in all but a tiny fraction of its genes, yet the two breeds differ radically in size, shape, behavior, mentality, and personality. Small genetic differences can have big consequences.
On the other hand, a collie and a pit bull are more similar to each other than they are to, say, an octopus. And a collie and an octopus would be more genetically similar to each other than to, say, copper-based lifeforms on Epsilon Eridani IV.