DNA Consultants’ blog

Read reviews of science articles, new research and news reports on ancestry testing, ancient DNA and popular genetics

Carolina Dedicates Genome Sciences Building


New Center is Hiring
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill dedicated its new Genome Sciences Building on University Day, Oct. 12, 2012, a major event in the increasingly interdisciplinary world of genome science. Located at the geographical center of campus, the Genome Sciences Building has an overarching goal: to foster collaborations at the intersection of different disciplines – and in every way, it is designed to do just that, according to the university.

Elizabeth Hirschman, Modern Pioneer


We interviewed Rutgers marketing professor Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman, author of several books and articles incorporating DNA in her research, to hear her personal story in our continuing series about the people behind the scenes in the field of DNA testing.

Were Neanderthals the First Artists?


Were Neanderthals capable of creating art? The idea seems shocking to us. After all, we learned in school that these were brutish savages without higher thinking and symbolic thought or expression. The picture of a Neanderthal making hand prints in Spanish caves or making shell necklaces is odd indeed because art is largely “considered evidence of sophisticated symbolic thinking, [and] has traditionally been attributed to modern humans, who reached Europe some 40,000 years ago” according to the recent Wired Science article, “First Painters May Have Been Neanderthal Not Human.” (Left:  Panel of Hands in the El Castillo Cave, Spain, dated to 37,300 years old, photo by Pedro Saura.)

Bigfoot DNA to Be Released: Not What You Think


A team of scientists can verify that their 5-year long DNA study, currently under peer-review, confirms the existence of a novel hominin hybrid species, commonly called “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch,” living in North America. Researchers’ extensive DNA sequencing suggests that the legendary Sasquatch is a human relative that arose approximately 15,000 years ago as a hybrid cross of modern Homo sapiens with an unknown primate species.

Behind the Numbers: Phyllis Starnes


Phyllis Starnes: Designer Genes
We interviewed Phyllis E. Starnes, assistant investigator, to find out what fascinates her about the field of DNA testing. Her story is the first in a series titled “Behind the Numbers” about the workers behind the scenes in our industry, from lab technicians to statisticians.

Do You Have a Mental Foramen?


A mental foramen is a small hole in the mandible whose purpose is to allow passage of nerves and vessels to the brain and probably also to relieve tension during chewing and gnawing. It has been identified as a sign of archaic humans, including Neanderthals. Do you have one?

Evolution and Ancestry: DNA Mutation Rates


As often happens in the annals of science, two research teams independently reached the same groundbreaking results, and publication to the scientific world occurred simultaneously. The breakthrough in the present case concerned the mutation rate of DNA and has profound implications for human evolution as well as for DNA Consultants’ new offerings in autosomal DNA ancestry analysis, specifically our Rare Genes from History Panel.

Rare Genes from Ancient DNA


Authentic sequences from the ancient human past are a rarity in the world of DNA testing. But when a team of archeologists put the mummies of King Tut and his immediate family on the operating table in 2010, they were successful in deriving almost complete DNA profiles for the boy king and others in the Amarna dynasty that ruled Egypt more than three thousand years ago. Now three of the DNA signatures of Egyptian pharoahs from that famous forensic study by Zahi Hawass and the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo–plus others newly discovered–are available as part of a commercial direct-to-the-consumer autosomal DNA testing panel.

Giants with Double-Rowed Teeth, and Six Fingers


The Cherokee called them the Moon People. The Utes and Paiutes spoke of a hideous race of cannibals ten feet tall living in caves. And the Choctaw also have an account of the race of giants that first colonized the Ohio Valley.