Paging Mr. Chromosome

| 13 Comments

Forget prime numbers in the movie “Contact”, your own last name may be encoded in your DNA, reports Science

Paging Mr. Chromosome Your last name may be encoded in your DNA

A genetic study of British men finds a one in four chance that two strangers with the same last name share an ancestor. The relationship implies that certain surnames have a unique DNA signature–a fact that could help police narrow down suspects in some unsolved cases. But the criminally intent John Smiths of the world need not worry, because the signatures are found predominantly for rare surnames.

Now that’s a ‘Design Inference’

13 Comments

Mostly irrelevant comment:

Actually I think the parallel here is closer to the Carl Sagan novel Contact than the Robert Zemeckis movie (that totally trashed Sagan’s worldview, BTW).

In the novel, protagonist Ellie Arroway finds noteworthy things encoded in the digits of pi. In the movie, yeah, there’s encoding going on (within EM signals that are being sent from a relay station a bunch of light-years away–actually that’s in the book too), but to me at least that’s less intrinsically interesting than DNA or pi coding.

YMMV, I guess.

A genetic study of British men finds a one in four chance that two strangers with the same last name share an ancestor.

Silly me – I thought we all shared common ancestors…going back no earlier than Y Chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve.

Rob

Surely there’s a one in one chance that any two strangers in Britain (or anywhere in the world) share an ancestor.

Ah, I should have checked the original article – it says there’s a 24% chance of sharing a common ancestor within the last 700 years.

Rob

There are Bruce Thompsons coast to coast to serve your every need and all unrelated. With every skill imaginable from academics to taxi drivers and bodybuilders to morticians, Bruce Thompsons come in all flavors and sizes. For any question, there is a Bruce Thompson with an answer.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Actually, it’s a 24% chance they share an ancestor in the paternal line - i.e. a common y chromosome. This article is very sloppily written.

Just out of interest, why the hell is this news? As I see it, the report says a) people with the same surname are more likely to be (relatively) closely related than people with different surnames, and b) this is more true the rarer the surname. Unless I’m missing something, a five year old could have told you that.

Unless I’m missing something, a five year old could have told you that.

Yeah. What the …?

Just out of interest, why the hell is this news? As I see it, the report says a) people with the same surname are more likely to be (relatively) closely related than people with different surnames, and b) this is more true the rarer the surname. Unless I’m missing something, a five year old could have told you that.

Yes, but could you have said how much closer? Would the relationship be meaningful in any practical sense? The figures are high enough that they might be useful (as the article points out), and we didn’t know that a week ago. Speculation is one thing, but evidence is more powerful.

Well, unless the Intelligent Designer is using surnames as a filing system to keep track of all our messy British DNA.

Bob

A genetic study of British men finds a one in four chance that two strangers with the same last name share an ancestor.

Does this mean we finally have a definition of “kind”? I hope so, because I dislike being related to many H. sapiens more than I dislike being related to broccoli. ;-)

the criminally intent Smiths of the world need not worry, because the signatures are found predominantly for rare surnames

That’s a relief.

Dr. Smith

Boy. It took me 3 or 4 reads to figure out why this means anything. If anybody else didn’t get it here it is (I think):

Crime scene DNA fits Kvezkvitch surname. Crimes happen primarily in Glasgow. Since DNA at a crime scene is likely to be male, looking at all the kvezkvitches in Glasgow is a reasonable starting point for an investigation.

Re “Does this mean we finally have a definition of “kind”?”

Well, if “kind” means unable to mate with those of other “kinds”, and unable to have descendants not of the same “kind”, I kind of think that “kind” means roughly the same as “clade”. ;)

(Or am I missing somebody’s point? :) )

Henry

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on February 23, 2006 3:11 PM.

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