Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Ancestry Craze

One can hardly watch television, surf the internet or peruse a magazine without encountering ads for companies that want to research your ancestry.  Since DNA analysis has become less expensive and more widely available, it is only natural that entrepreneurs have found ways to make money with that technology.

While most humans are interested in their "recent" ancestry (i.e. where their great grandparents were born), relatively few of us care to know that we are, for example, 20% Somalian, 30% Irish, 15% Russian and 35% Polynesian.  We understand that human cultures have been mixing (sexually) for thousands of years and that we are all genetic mosaics.  On the other hand, one can hope that such data might put a lid on racial supremacy and zealous nationalism.

At no charge, I offer the following ancestral revelations.  Wherever we may have been born, we are all Africans from the perspective of our genetic heritage; indeed, we share more than 98% of our genome with chimpanzees from which our ancestors diverged 7 million years ago.  In addition, those humans of European or West Asian descent are 5% Neandertal (genetically speaking) while those of East Asian or Australian descent harbor Denisovan genes (4-5% of their genome); anthropologists also suspect that early humans interbred with Homo erectus, the immediate predecessor of Homo sapiens.  See also Human Hybridism.