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Zoobiquity

The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health

By Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers
19-minute read
Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers

Zoobiquity describes the intimate similarities between humans and other animals by examining topics such as sexuality, health and psychological development. It illustrates how we, as humans, could have much to gain by increasing our understanding of the animals we share our planet with.

  • Anyone interested in medicine
  • Anyone interested in biology or zoology
  • Anyone interested in animals

Barbara Natterson-Horowitz is a professor of cardiology at University of California, Los Angeles. She’s also a member of the medical advisory board of the Los Angeles Zoo. Kathryn Bowers is a writer and producer at CNN International, and she often gives lectures at UCLA on medical topics.

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Zoobiquity

The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health

By Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers
  • Read in 19 minutes
  • Contains 12 key ideas
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Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers
Synopsis

Zoobiquity describes the intimate similarities between humans and other animals by examining topics such as sexuality, health and psychological development. It illustrates how we, as humans, could have much to gain by increasing our understanding of the animals we share our planet with.

Key idea 1 of 12

Humans and animals are so genetically similar that it makes sense for their doctors to collaborate.

Have you ever been to a zoo and found yourself taken aback by the “humanness” of the behavior of some monkeys or other animals? That closeness isn’t just a coincidence, or your imagination. It’s genetic.

Human beings and animals have many fundamental similarities, including their genes. In fact, the human genome is 98.6 percent identical to the chimpanzee's.

Biologists call the genetic similarities we share with other animals deep homology. Deep homology doesn’t just refer to species that are closely related, like wolves and dogs, or humans and chimps. It also refers to animals that are more distantly related. For example, it explains the connection between light-responsive vision in a hawk and photosensitivity in green algae.

Because of the intimate similarities between humans and animals, it’s logical that veterinary and medical researchers should collaborate. In fact, this used to be the case: two centuries ago, most physicians also tended to their town’s animals. This changed in the twentieth century, when people began to give physicians a higher social status, and they began to have more prestige and higher salaries. Unfortunately, these benefits weren’t extended to veterinarians.

The dividing line between doctors and vets still exists, although it is slowly being weakened. In 2007, for instance, the head of the American Medical Association and the head of the American Veterinary Medical Association arranged a meeting, hoping to foster collaboration between physicians and veterinarians.

If collaborative efforts like this continue, we might gain a better understanding of both human and animal biology. Our genetic similarities run deep – but how similar is our behavior, or the way diseases affect our bodies? The following blinks take a closer look at some of the astonishing similarities we share with the animals in our world.

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