Author: Bryan Moyers
Editors: Theresa Mau, Alex Taylor, and Kevin Boehnke
What exactly separates us from other animals? For that matter, what makes any species or group of species special? How is life so diverse? How can cephalopods camouflage themselves so well, and how did platypuses become so bizarre?
Part of the answer is in genes. Genes are sections of DNA that perform a specific function, usually after being translated into proteins by special cellular machinery. Every species has genes that code for proteins, but different species have different numbers of genes. Humans have around 20,000, fruit flies have around 18,000, and the tiny water-flea has around 31,000 genes. Different sets of genes produce animals with different structures and functions.