This piece appeared in LongStoryShort last year.
My DNA By David Margolis
I was perusing my National Geographic yesterday when I came across an article comparing the human genome to other biological species, and it answered numerous questions that have been vexing me for several years. I read that we share 18% of the same genes with the lowly Saccharomyces cerevisiae also known as Baker’s yeast. I now know why one’s unique talents are referred to as his “bread and butter” which can help him earn a lot of “bread,” but he must be careful not to develop a puffed ego if he gets on a “roll”.
The next item on the list was the lowly grape which has 24% similarity with our species. These genes might account for the purple color that some individuals acquire when angry, while jealousy can often cause our grapes to turn sour, particularly if information was obtained through the grapevine. In the 35-45% range are the nematodes, bees, and flies, so be careful before you call somebody a worm, you might be implicating yourself, and the latest buzz could be about you or your honey. The butterfly in your insides that appear under stress may be real, and remember the best laid plans can be waylaid by a fly in the ointment.
It’s no surprise that Homo sapiens share more genes with animals that are higher up on the evolutionary ladder. Sixty-five per cent of our DNA is present in the chicken and that’s about the same percentage of the populace who are cowards, and certain people strut their stuff while others are at the bottom of the pecking order. I was puzzled that we are more closely related to the platypus than to poultry, but I did some research and found out that these animals have functioning breasts that secrete milk as opposed to a chicken’s breast that’s only useful for grilling. The Zebra fish, related to the lowly minnow, unexpectedly has 70% of its genome in common with man. I know that some people swim very well but that can’t explain the concordance, so it must include all the shysters with fishy schemes, and those that have congenitally dry skin known as ichthyosis although most fish that I have handled seem slimy. Then again, many of us drink like a fish although many fish don’t drink.
Eighty percent of our genes exist in the cow, and therefore it’s not a revelation that subsets of individuals have a herd like mentality, are full of bull, or steer away from trouble; and on every human leg there is a calf. The dog has a similar representation, although I might have expected more. After all, there have been studies to prove that many of us dog it at work, while other’s doggedly pursue their dreams, while still others lead a fortunate life, the so-called lucky dogs of the world, and of course the doggy bag leftovers which folks take home from restaurants, but usually eat themselves rather than feed to their canines. The horse was no problem for me. A select group has a certain amount of horse sense, and seldom horse around, or put the horse before the cart, and never look a gift horse in the mouth. Conversely, if someone is shooting horse, or illegally ingesting horse pills, then that’s a horse of another color, particularly if they heard it from the horse’s mouth but horses don’t talk, only humans and parrots do, and a minority of dudes need to hold their horses especially if beating a dead horse.
The mouse genome is astonishingly akin to hominids at eighty-eight percent, but after thinking about this fact for a while I realized it should be no shock. If you slug your adversary in the eye he might develop a mouse, and a few people, usually women, are called mousy. Then there are all those humanoid mice, Mickey, Minnie, Mighty, and of course the Mouse that Roared and you can’t run a computer without a mouse.
Finally, there are the primates with a ninety per cent match to man. Individuals are greatly relieved when they get the monkey off their back, but become irate when somebody makes a monkey out of them, and when they admire a person they might want to ape them, or if excited, they might go ape, and certain groups will start a guerilla war if they are dissatisfied with their government, and who can forget King Kong, Curious George, and Albert the first monkey in space who unfortunately did not survive the flight.
Having completed my study of comparative genomics, I squat in my man cave hunched over my magazine: my hair long, my beard overgrown, my forehead sloped, and my eyes sunken. Suddenly I emit an audible grunt as my inadequate brain tries to cope with all this knowledge, but this shouldn’t surprise me; I just read that my DNA is two and a half percent Neanderthal.