We Share 93% Of Our DNA With These Cute Lil' Guys - And It Shows In Their Behavior

The macaque is one of our closest ancestors and shares a shocking 93% of human DNA. All species of macaque exhibit humanlike behaviors and social dynamics that are so intricate they'll amaze you — the black macaque even takes selfies. It isn't surprising that the macaque shares so much human DNA: macaques are diverse, strange, and amazing creatures.

Macaques serve many roles in society; they're considered sacred in some cultures, yet in others they're hunted as bushmeat. They're frequently subjected to medical testing in laboratories, thanks in part to their many humanlike qualities. However, the macaque isn't just genetically similar to us: the adorable monkeys also have advanced cognitive behaviors. Macaques know how to use tools, floss their teeth, and clean their food. One restaurant even employs them as waiters. With so many anthropomorphic qualities, it's no wonder it's so easy to relate to these little primates.


  • Some Macaques Have Jobs

    Some Macaques Have Jobs
    Video: YouTube

    Yes, there's actually a restaurant in Japan called Kayabukiya Tavern where you can be served by a macaque. Yes, they have uniforms. And yes, they're adorable. The restaurant has employed macaque waiters for nearly 30 years. The owner discovered that macaques were ideal for the role when one began giving out hot towels to restaurant-goers.

    As in any restaurant, guests are encouraged to leave tips for quality service; monkeys don't really need cash, but they do love soya beans. They're paid daily wages in bananas. The owner fell in love with macaques many years ago and holds them all dear to her heart, saying they're closer to her than her own family. The restaurant was regularly inspected to guarantee that the monkeys were treated well, and they were only allowed to work for two hours per day. Kayabukiya Tavern closed down after the 2011 tsunami, but the monkeys and the restaurant's old owner are still a happy family.

  • We're Nearly Genetically Identical To The Macaque

    We're Nearly Genetically Identical To The Macaque
    Photo: linda07900 / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Scientists recently mapped the entire genome of the rhesus macaque and discovered that it shares nearly 93% of its DNA with humans. The rhesus was the first monkey in space, the first primate to be cloned, and is frequently used in labs for disease and pathology research. 

    Part of the reason macaques are popular creatures to study and use for testing is because they're so genetically diverse. They separated from the evolutionary path of humans 25 million years ago, whereas chimps only diverged about 6 million years ago. Many infectious diseases originated with primates, and research allows us to gain an understanding of why those diseases might affect them differently. We'll also be able to understand why humans develop diseases that don't affect primates at all, such as Alzheimer's.

    Being able to distinguish when certainly evolutionary characteristics emerged can be helpful to scientists; the long-term goal is to be able to fully map out the path primates took to become human beings. When and where did our genes change, and why? Macaques may be able to help us figure that out.

  • The Female Macaque Has A Big Booty

    The macaque may be genetically similar to us, but they have some unique, defining physical characteristics. Their cheeks have large pouches, kind of like pelicans, that they use as food storage. You never know when you might need a snack, after all. The pouches can hold as much food as their stomachs.

    Though there are 21 different types of macaques, they all have distinctive manes and tails. Perhaps the most bizarre characteristic, however, belongs to the Celebes crested and black macaques. The females have very large booties that become an inflamed red color when the ladies are ready to mate.

  • They Take Selfies

    They Take Selfies
    Photo: Self-portrait / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    It was the selfie heard 'round the world — a macaque took a photographer's camera and snapped this famous pic with a massive grin on its face. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising given that macaques are a little narcissistic. They're frequently seen sitting on scooters, peering at themselves in the metal handlebars.

    The photographer was sued a few years later, and it wasn't by the monkey. PETA pressed charges on behalf of the macaque because they felt that the revenue should go toward the primate, since he was technically the one who took the photo. Similar disputes have been raised regarding artwork created by elephants. A settlement was reached, and the photographer will donate 10% of future revenue to a monkey conservation project in Sulawesi.

  • They Binge On Caffeine

    If you've ever felt sick from too much caffeine, at least one macaque can identify with you. A young male macaque stole coffee from a tourist's bag, and later a vendor in a local market noticed the little guy was acting strange. He ended up passing out from the caffeine intake. After several hours of carbon and saline, he made a full recovery and was able to return to the wild. Macaques may be genetically similar to us, but they sure don't have the same caffeine tolerance as humans.

  • Macaques In Florida May Give You Herpes

    Macaques In Florida May Give You Herpes
    Photo: BZD1 / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Macaques are found in the wild in certain parts of Florida, and they are not your friends. 25% of Floridian macaques carry the McHV-1 strain of herpes. Monkeys rarely exhibit symptoms, but humans certainly do: McHV-1 can kill people, and up to 70% of untreated patients die. Urine, feces, and saliva all carry the risk of McHV-1. So if a bold macaque approaches you in Florida, run the other direction.