98% Chimp

Face it. You knew from the first time you climbed on the monkey bars that you were 98% Chimp. You could swing, screech, eat bananas… really all you needed were opposable toes and some additional body hair to make the picture complete. In the 1970s studies emerged comparing promising sequences of aligned human and chimpanzee DNA. The divergences were striking in their minimalism — the differences due to base substitution came back under 2%. Aha. There’s that opposable toe. Even today, with new technology and the entire chimpanzee genome mapped, the numbers run about the same. Unless you count indels. Which we don’t. Don’t get us wrong. We like indels. Heck. Just the way they put the word together makes us all misty for “modem.” Indels, aka insertions and deletions of nucleotides in a protein sequence, make up an additional estimated 3% of differences between human and chimp genetics. They’re common in non-coding regions of the DNA, bits where we’re not quite sure what the DNA is doing, other than slacking off. So we decided not to count it on our shirt. If it can’t account for its time, we’re not putting it on the payroll. 100% cotton, black t-shirt proudly proclaims “98% Chimp.”

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