Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Where Did My Genes Come From?

DNA can be mind numbingly precise; but there is so much more that we have yet to learn. One example of this is our attempts to determine our geographic and ethnic origins. The chart below gives the current such projections for Dr D:

If you can read the chart above, Ancestry projects that 71% of my DNA is compatible with origin in the British Isles and 25% appears to be of Eastern European origin--leaving 4% uncertain.  23andMe tells me that I am more than 99% European, less than 1% Asian and 0% African. Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) reports that 94.36% plus or minus 1.72% of my DNA is compatible with Western European origin; and 5.64% (again plus or minus 1.72%) is of Middle Eastern origin.

Hmm? I'm glad I got that all sorted out. What else did these lab reports tell me? 23andMe specified that the Asian component (less than 1%) is on Chromosome 1. FTDNA equates my Western European overwhelming majority as being compatible with Orcadian (Orkney Islands?) DNA. The remaining Middle East component is classified as "Palestinian, Adygei, Bedouin, Bedouin South, Druze, Iranian, Jewish, Mozabite." 

This all must have been confused by my 2.5% Neanderthal DNA which 23andMe found. As a point of reference, this put me at the 39th percentile of Northern Europeans who are said to average 2.6%. My wife and her sister scored at the 95 percentile with 3% Neanderthal DNA. I want a recount! It looks like I may get it with Gene 2.0 which claims to test Neanderthal as well as Denisovan DNA.

So what have I learned as a result of these analyses? I have learned to take these reports, at their current state of evolution, with a grain (or perhaps a shaker) of salt. They point in the right direction but the exact point of origin of my various deep ancestors are still a little murky. These predictions are based on autosomal DNA so it encompasses all my lines and not just the paternal > paternal... (Y-chromosome) and the maternal > maternal... (mitochondrial) lines. I hope more experience and more individuals testing will sharpen the focus of these emotionally fascinating tests. 

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