Which Species Is Most Closely Related To Humans?

The ape family is closest to the human family.
The ape family is closest to the human family.

Species Most Closely Related To Humans

Humans are a member of the biological order called primates and part of the Hominidae (Great Ape) family on the greater primate evolutionary tree. While humans share some genes with every living organism, they share a higher percentage of DNA with animals that are closer to them on the biological tree.

This means that those in the family of great apes are very similar to each other in terms of anatomy, behavior, and biologically in terms of the percentage of DNA they share. While orangutans and gorillas are in the great ape family, humans are most closely related to two other species in the family: bonobos and chimpanzees. However, while we are closely related to these two modern humans did not directly evolve from any primates that are alive today.

Based on DNA evidence, humans separated from both chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) via an unknown common ancestor species which existed sometime between 4 to 8 million years ago in Africa. For comparison, the last common ancestor of Old World apes and monkeys is believed to have lived in Africa around 25 million years ago.

How Close Are Humans To Chimpanzees And Bonobos?

In 2005, the chimp genome was fully sequenced for the first time. These findings were produced by the Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium, which published their findings in the scientific journal Nature. With the human genome having undergone final sequencing mapping in 2003 and a major quality assessment in 2004 to wrap up the Human Genome Project this allowed the two to be compared. This found that humans and chimpanzees share around 99 percent of the same DNA.

In 2012, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, led a project in which a worldwide group of scientists sequenced the genome of the bonobo. The effort found that bonobos also shared approximately 99 percent of the same DNA with humans.

They also found that chimps and bonobos have an even closer relationship, as 99.6% of their DNA is the same. Around 1 million years ago, the populations of chimpanzees and bonobos split apart. This is speculated to have happened after the Congo River formed, as bonobos can only be found in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The bonobo genome study also found that about 1.6% of human DNA is shared with bonobos and not chimpanzees. This same amount of DNA is also only shared between humans and chimps but not with bonobos. Interestingly enough, humans, chimps, and bonobos all have a 1.6% difference in DNA compared to gorillas. In contrast to all this, the genetic difference between individual human beings averages out to be only around 0.1%.


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