Comparison of genomes has resulted in some surprising biological discoveries. If a particular DNA sequence or pattern is present among many members of a clade, that sequence is said to have been conserved among the species. Evolutionary conservation of a DNA sequence may imply that it confers a relative selective advantage to the organisms that possess it. Conservation also suggests that sequence has functional significance. It may be a protein coding sequence or regulatory region. Experimental investigation of some of these sequences has shown that some are transcribed into small RNA molecules, although the functions of these RNAs were not immediately apparent.
The identification of similar sequences (including many genes) in two distantly related organisms, but not in other members of one of the clades, has led to the theory that these sequences were acquired by horizontal gene transfer. This phenomenon is most prominent in thermophilic bacteria, where it seems that genes were transferred from Archaea to Eubacteria. It has also been noticed that bacterial genes exist in eukaryotic nuclear genomes and that these genes generally encode mitochondrial and plastid proteins, giving support to the endosymbiotic theory of the origin of these organelles.
It is often stated that a particular organism shares X percent of its DNA with humans. This number indicates the percentage of base pairs that are identical between the two species. Here is a list of genetic similarity to humans, with sources, where known.
While these numbers come from various secondary sources, the data may have originated from measures of DNA-DNA hybridization or from direct sequence comparisons.