A Genographic cheek swab test on Chris Darwin—great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, author of On the Origin of Species—has revealed the deep ancestry of the so-called “Father of Evolution.”
National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells revealed the test results today in Sydney, Australia, at the annual meeting of scientists leading Genographic Project field investigations around the world.
The test showed that Chris Darwin…
… along with his male progenitors including Charles, descended from the Cro-Magnon people, who migrated into Europe beginning some 30,000 years ago, displacing and ultimately eradicating the Neanderthal species.
Before this, the Darwin men’s paternal ancestors inhabited Iran or southern Central Asia about 40,000 years ago, and migrated from northeast Africa into the Middle East about 45,000 years ago.
The lineage, called Haplogroup R1b, is among the most common for European males. “Approximately 70 percent of men in southern England belong to Haplogroup R1b,” said Wells, “and in parts of Ireland and Spain that number exceeds 90 percent.”
Members of the public can participate in the Genographic Project by purchasing a public participation kit (US $100) and can also choose whether to donate their genetic results to the expanding research database. To date, more than 265,000 Genographic public participants have consented to have their genetic information included in the scientific database. Net proceeds from test kit sales support Genographic Legacy Fund grants to empower indigenous and traditional peoples through locally-led efforts and to raise global awareness about the cultural loss indigenous and traditional communities face.
The project represents a research partnership between National Geographic and IBM, with field support from the Waitt Family Foundation. “With the quantity of data and new methods of analysis that the Genographic Project team at IBM are pioneering, we are able to deliver insights into our past that were simply not possible before,” said Ajay Royyuru, the leader of IBM’s computational biology team.
Images: Photograph of George Richmond’s 1840 portrait of Charles Darwin by James L. Stanfield; photograph of Chris Darwin by Patrick Riviere