Just 7% of our genome is uniquely shared with other humans, and not shared by other early ancestors, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances. “That’s a pretty small percentage,” said Nathan Schaefer, a University of California computational biologist and co-author of the new paper. “This kind of finding is why scientists are turning away from thinking that we humans are so vastly different from Neanderthals.”
The research draws upon DNA extracted from fossil remains of Neanderthals and Denisovans dating back to around 40,000 or 50,000 years ago, as well as from 279 modern people from around the world. The researchers also found that an even smaller fraction of our genome — just 1.5% — is both unique to our species and shared among all people alive today. Those slivers of DNA may hold the most significant clues as to what truly distinguishes modern human beings.