In addition to the massive international project that decoded the human genome, many scientists have been working to decode and understand the genomes of many other living things: from microbes, to African elephants, to corn. As different as these cells and organisms may appear on the surface, genetic elements from even the smallest and simplest organisms can also be found in humans.
Genetic studies have shown that animals and fungi are more closely related to each other than to plants.
As one scientist put it: “You’re more closely related to the mushrooms in your salad than to the lettuce.”
By comparing the genomes of different organisms to each other and to the human genome (a field known as comparative genomics), we can gain a better understanding of our own DNA – what humans have in common with other species, the genetic basis of being human, the genetic links to human disease, and even how life evolved on Earth.One challenge confronting scientists today is the number of species that are going extinct. Human activity is credited with (or blamed for) the extinction of nearly 900 species in the past 500 years! Close to 17,000 plants and animals are currently listed as endangered species.
Human activity is credited with … the extinction of nearly 900 species in the past 500 years.