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The old proverb goes "Incest is best, so put
your brother to the test". Today we'll examine
the validity of this statement.....for science......Do
we have a barf bag off set just in case?
Hey everyone, Laci Green here. It's everyone's
favorite subject: incest! No really. It seriously
feels like incest is now everyone's favorite
topic. It's a big Japanese porn thing, it's
a big Game of Thrones thing....a big yahoo
answers thing. Oh, humans. Incest is a moral
dilemma as well as a scientific one. Few things
provoke such disgust---for MOST people---as
the idea of having sex with a blood relative.
Of course non-consensual sexual contact with
a family member is a form of abuse and absolutely
not OK, but what about when it's consensual
and they're not having kids? It's hard for
a rational person to reason out of, and yet
that disgust is still goin strong.
But, this is science time, because YAY DNEWS,
so let's talk about incest or inbreeding from
a scientific standpoint. A recent report in
the open access journal PeerJ found that inbreeding
in woolly mammoths from the North Sea may
be why they went extinct. The researcher's
main clue was cervical ribs on the neck of
the fossils. These ribs are known to develop
when genetic or environmental disturbances
take place while the embryo is developing.
There are also other birth defects that are
associated with this mutation and the scientists
believe those abnormalities could have played
a role in the mammoth's ability to survive.
Now, mammoths aren't the only species speculated
to have inbred - in fact most species will
inbreed if it's the only option. Other animals
known to inbreed often are...house cats. Bonobos
practice incest as part of social bonding,
and in some species of wasp, over 90% of them
mate with their brother or sister.
It's a strange paradox given the hell that
inbreeding can wreck on the offspring. Inbreeding
basically means that there's no diversity
of the genetic pool. So, bad genes are magnified.
With...ummm...outbreeding? Is that a word?
Basically how it goes down is that when humans
breed with non-relatives, the offspring gets
2 copies of a particular gene, so if one copy
isn't good, they have a normal one as backup.
Inbreeding, particularly over many generations,
completely eliminates these backups across
hundreds or thousands of genes, which can
cause some weird mutations and exaggerations
of genetic defects. It will also cause fertility
Even though there are several species, including
humans, that practice incest and inbreeding,
the majority of the animal kingdom rejects
incestuous advances in normal circumstances.
It's thought that different species have evolved
different mechanisms to make sure they don't
put their genes at risk. For humans, that
mechanism may be a combination of psychological
systems -- including the scent of their pheromones
and facial detection.
I know incest is kinda gross, but when you
think about that disgust as a possible evolutionary
response...it's actually kinda interesting.
Let me know what you think down below and
I'll catch you next time with more DNews updates.