Scientists have discovered that we have less DNA now than our ancient ancestors possessed.
The team of researchers led by Professor Evan Eichler, geneticist at the Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, sequenced the genomes of 236 individuals from 125 distinct populations. They found that Homo sapiens have shed approximately 40.7 million base pairs of DNA after breaking from our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, around 13 million years ago.
The genome of modern humans now contains 3 billion base pairs of DNA, and even then scientists are unsure how much of that number is so-called “junk DNA”—genomic data whose function, if it has any, is not understood—but they do assert that at least 27.96 million of the base pairs lost were unique.
Have modern humans beneficially shed superfluous DNA, or have we lost something important over the generations?