Thursday, November 13, 2008

Count your Great-Great Grandparents

How many great-great grandparents did you have? If the answer is less than 16 then there must have been some inbreeding. Don't worry- an Icelandic study has found that 3rd cousin marriages are the most fecund! (although the actual reasons behind this are hotly disputed).

In any case, we are all inbred- if we weren't we'd all have more ancestors than have ever lived on the planet. I got to thinking about this after listening to iTunes U Berkeley History 4A (again) on the end of the Roman republic- specifically regarding Cleopatra (VII) - empresss of Egypt.

Although the Ptolemaic dynasty were Greek ( descendents of one of Alex-the-Great's generals) - they continued the Egyptian tradition of inbreeding. Cleo herself only had 6 great-great-grandparents ... and most of these were related! Reminds me of the hysterical "30 Rock" episode with Prince Gerhard Messerschmidt Rammstein von Haupt - the genetically deformed Habsburg prince who falls in love with Jenna. I guess the character was based on the last Habsburg king of Spain: the mentally and physically disabled Charles II.

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