Friday 3 January 2014

Shrinking humane genome?

“The fact that the human genome is so parsimonious raises an interesting question. What exactly is it about the human genome that gives rise to our staggering complexity, in the brain for example, compared to other animals such as monkeys, worms or even water fleas?”

Ref: : The Shrinking Human Protein Coding Complement: Are There Fewer Than 20,000

Some alarm is being raised by the finding that our genome appears to be smaller than other lowly and less complex organisms. This is a key result from a new attempt to define what constitutes a gene, in terms of whether it encodes detectable proteins, and whether it is similar to genes in other species.

I feel less affronted. Genes have different histories. Some are very cluttered messy codes, others have done well with sparse and elegant solutions. Anyway, perhaps we are reading the wrong end of the Mandelbrot set, and getting confused by the apparent need to match the end product perfectly with the design code.

However, it suggests an interesting possibility: perhaps humans got fast-tracked by some very favourable set of circumstances. Bipedalism? Fortuitous encephalisation? Eating lots of carrion? Getting friendly with the Neanderthals? Flukes happen.


  1. "Some alarm is being raised by the finding that our genome appears to be smaller than other lowly and less complex organisms." Good Lord, competitive willie-waggling about genome size? Say it ain't true, Doc.

  2. Very feather-ruffling, but true.

  3. Perhaps it's the latest stage of our (relatively) exponential evolution - simplifying our programming, the way a large multi-national with a mature market will focus towards inward efficiency.

    I wonder how we would compare to species that have "finished" their evolution millions of years ago - say, sharks and horseshoe crabs. If there is advantage to my guess, they might have it.

  4. Don't think we can simplify our programming other than by very, very selective forces. Mostly we carry a bundle of past genetic baggage for a long time. Sharks and horseshoe crabs are fine, but human create their own niches, and that is very unusual.