Scientists Map Acorn Worm DNA, And Learn A Lot About Humans In The Process

You’d never know at first glance, but human beings have a surprising amount in common with acorn worms.

More than 500 million years ago, humans and these soft-bodied invertebrates had a common ancestor, as Live Science reports. And to this day, we share about 14,000 genes.

In fact, in terms of genetic makeup, we are 70 percent similar, according to the findings of a new study.

Humans, meet your slithering underwater cousins.

For the study, published in the journal Nature, researchers analyzed genes from two acorn worm species collected off Hawaii and from the Atlantic Ocean.

As Berkeley News reports, the newly sequenced genomes are shedding light on the evolution of pharyngeal slits (which acorn worms use to filter food from seawater) into gills and then into the pharynx, the organ that gives humans the ability to bite, chew, swallow and speak.

“The presence of these slits in acorn worms and vertebrates tells us that our last common ancestor also had them, and was likely a filter feeder like acorn worms today,” Daniel Rokhsar, a leader of the sequencing effort and a University of California Berkeley professor, told Berkeley News.

These worms aren’t the only bizarre critters humans share a significant percentage of genes with.

While numbers vary depending on the source, here’s a look at just how similar our DNA is to everything from chimpanzees to yeast.

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