The ‘Mother’s Curse’ in Canada

The idea for the mother’s curse goes like this. Most human genes are on chromosomes, but a tiny number are in mitochondria, little power factories in human cells that for reasons of evolutionary history have their own loops of DNA. Sperm do not pass on any mitochondria, but eggs do. Therefore, all sons and daughters inherit their mitochondrial DNA from their mother (great mother’s day present idea: sequence yourmitochondria, make into cool figure, give it to your mom thanking her for the DNA). If a harmful mutation in mitochondrial DNA ends up in a woman, she will be less evolutionarily “fit” and thus less able to pass it along. But if the mutation ends up in a man, nothing happens. He never passes along mitochondrial DNA anyway.

However, this hasn’t been tested all that often in humans. Until a perfect system arose. You see,  the first King’s Daughters—or filles du roi—arrived in New France in 1663, and 800 more would follow over the next decade. They were poor and usually of common birth, but their passage and dowry were indeed paid by King Louis XIV for the purpose of empire building: These women were to marry male colonists and have many children, thus strengthening France’s hold on North America. And so they did.

One of these is Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, which causes vision loss, usually in young men. Recently, geneticists using French Canadian genealogy have reexamined the effects of Leber’s and found a striking pattern of inheritance: It seems to show a long-theorized but never-seen-in-humans pattern called the “mother’s curse.”

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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There is no such thing as a “pure” European-or anyone else

After the migrant crisis from Syria hit Germany, it challenged the Willkommenskultur (Welcome culture). While most Germans swung into action to help settle the millions of refugees coming to Germany, some (self-proclaimed) neo-nazis were quoted as saying the German people faced “the destruction of our genetic heritage” and risked becoming “a gray mishmash”.

Well I have good/bad news for everyone. There is no unique German genetic heritage. There also isn’t a unique French genetic heritage, or Norwegian or Polish or Italian genetic heritage. All Europeans are already a mishmash of repeated ancient migrations. New studies show that almost all Europeans descend from three major migrations in the past 15,000 years including two from the Middle East.

Want to know more? Check it out over at Science. 

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Understanding how cancer evolves is the key to stopping it

We started this blog as a means to talk to non-scientists about biology, and since we’re a group of evolutionary biologist, to talk mostly about evolutionary biology. My first post (oh those long years ago) was about Evolutionary Medicine. So imagine my delight with this recent article in the Atlantic addresses about how understanding evolution helps treat cancer. I don’t think I need to say this is awesome, but just in case… this is awesome.

Read about it here!

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Fact Check

“Alternate facts” are not a thing. The great thing about facts is that they are true regardless of whether you choose to believe them or not.

So let’s take a moment to check some facts about science that are being “altered” under the Trump administration.

Luckily, NPR has already done that for us, thanks NPR! Some of them are old, some of them are recent, all of them are problems.

But it’s important to first understand the facts. And here they are. 

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Can we build a science of human evolution that people can trust?

Before 2016 ended John Hawks (Paleoanthropologist) asked the simple question on facebook:

“What questions in the science of human evolution have not received enough attention? Which ones should we be investigating in 2017?”

The answers will largely surprise you, and mostly revolved around trust. In the age of people doubting science and facts, these are important questions to be asking, and even more important for academics and scientists to be addressing.

Read the full article here. 1-tmcbarnu4f72_e47cmqzbg

Man vs. Rat

“Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.” -The Princess Bride

While Wesley might have been on to something, he missed the mark a bit. Despite all the horrors we associate with rats that are blatantly untrue, “the rat problem” still represents a perfect nightmare.

They are intimately associated with humans (wherever we go, rats follow). And despite centuries of trying to eliminate our foe, we are losing this war, in a big way.

One of the big problem is rats fertility. A female rat can copulate dozens of times a day, and ovulates ever 4 days. Left alone, a male and female pair can produce 15,000 offspring in a year. So is it time to put rats on the pill? Scientists may have found one that works!

Read about the war, the disturbing war with rats, and the solutions (fingers crossed) over at the Guardian.

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Fossilized Leaves Solve Decades Old Death

The 58-year-young King Albert I of Belgium died while rock climbing in 1934. His body was found lifelessly hanging from a rope from the crags at Marche-les-Dames and it was a scandal to the tune of JFK like conspiracy.

82 years later we have a new clue into the cause of the Belguim royals death! And it comes from… plants.

Read about it over at Smithsonian. 

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