Tag Archives: genetic traits

Dark DNA May Reveal New Lifeforms

18 Jul dark dna is not junk dna

You probably didn’t know that Viruses make up most of the DNA on our planet.

There are more viruses on earth than there are stars in the universe.  That’s a really, really, REALLY big number.

more virus dna than human dna

Viruses inject their DNA into their hosts, thus preserving their DNA and allowing it to replicate.  It is estimated that 100,000 genes in our genome are from viruses.  That’s about 8% of our genome.

Yes, you are in some sense a giant walking virus… (Humanity has been compared to a cancer on the earth, so a virus may actually be an improvement) – but that’s not all.

virsues are smaller than bacteria

In his talk at TED2012, researcher and jungle genome operative Nathan Wolfe makes the point that until 1898, when Dutch microbiologist  Martinus Beijerinck published a paper showing that something smaller than bacteria were causing diseases, something he called a virus, we had no idea that an entirely undiscovered form of life existed everywhere on our planet.

If we didn’t know about the most prevalent lifeform on our planet until 100 years ago, is there something else out there that we might not know about yet?  Could science have overlooked something even BIGGER?

Dark DNA may offer some clues in this Ted Talk by the radical epidemiologist Nathan Wolfe.

What is Dark DNA?

Dark DNA is the genetic code in the human genome that currently has no known original source.

We have traced 8% of the human genome to viruses.  1-2% of our genome comes from other animals.  Believe it or not you share 55% of your genetic code with a banana – and that’s not just men.

However,  20% of our genome is completely unaccounted for.  We have no idea where it came from.

Wolfe said, “As we started to look at this information, we would see that about 20 percent of the genetic information in your nose doesn’t match anything that we’ve ever seen before — no plant, animal, fungus, virus or bacteria. Basically we have no clue what this is.”

“If you think 20 percent of genetic information in your nose is a lot of biological dark matter, if we looked at your gut, up to 40 or 50 percent of that information is biological dark matter. And even in the relatively sterile blood, around one to two percent of this information is dark matter — can’t be classified, can’t be typed or matched with anything we’ve seen before.

“At first we thought that perhaps this was artifact. These deep sequencing tools are relatively new. But as they become more and more accurate, we’ve determined that this information is a form of life, or at least some of it is a form of life. And while the hypotheses for explaining the existence of biological dark matter are really only in their infancy, there’s a very, very exciting possibility that exists: that buried in this life, in this genetic information, are signatures of as of yet unidentified life.”

Some scientists have begun looking for patterns and structures in this “dark DNA” and have already made surprising discoveries, including sequencing unknown mircrobes that produce protein in new ways.

But will the BIG discovery happen?  Will this dark DNA hold the secret to a form of life that we have never known before?

alien skull

Will Dark DNA reveal a lifeform that is all around us, influencing our every day lives in unknown ways, yet has been missed by science?

Or will dark DNA confirm the suspicions of many pseudo-scientific X-Files fans (and maybe a few Scientologists) who believe that aliens started life on our planet by injecting their DNA into earth forms.  I vote for that one.




5 Amazing Things About Your Genes & DNA

Why IQ is Genetic

Weird Things That Are Genetic

What is Genetic?

Genetic Information

Why IQ is Genetic

15 Jul How genes affect IQ

How Genetics Affects IQ

IQ is genetic

So much for the days of studying hard to be smart. There are a growing number of studies presenting evidence that our IQ may actually be largely genetic.

IQ in adults is almost as heritable as height.  Studies have shown that children of the same parents have similar IQ’s, whereas an adopted sibling will not have the same IQ even though the child is raised in the same environment.  In fact, even if biological siblings are raised in different homes, their IQ’s will remain similar.

This does not, however, mean they will do anything productive with their intelligence.  For most of his life, the smartest man in the world, Chris Langam, a man who tested off the charts of modern IQ tests, worked as a manual laborer and a bouncer at a bar.


IQ of children is hereditary

Many different genes affect IQ.  A recent study showed that no single gene makes a marked difference in an individual’s IQ of more than a fraction of a percent, but the cumulative total of all the genes that affect intelligence can impact your IQ by as much as 20% or more.

This means it won’t be a simple thing to order a high IQ baby from your genetic doctor in the future. You may actually be better off just buying the sperm of a certified genius.  (Please use our contact form for all sperm donation inquiries.)

Colbert Formula 401 sperm

Genes that affect IQ may not increase your IQ directly.   Geneticists haven’t found an IQ gene; instead there are dozens, or possibly hundreds, of genes that have an impact on brain development, many in unexpected ways. For example, gene mutations causing disorders and diseases can also indirectly lead to increased neural activity, so certain genetic mutations and diseases might actually make you smarter.

Children’s IQ’s are affected much more by their environment than adult IQ’s.  Once you reach adulthood (post-adolescence) your IQ is pretty much set, which can be attested to by that one guy we all know who smokes pot every day, drinks all night, and then wakes up and aces his GMAT.   A child, however, can have their IQ stunted by poverty, abuse, neglect, and other negative environmental factors.

There is actually some evidence that video games can increase IQ in children, particularly fluid intelligence (the ability to solve problems in novel situations), but not if they play Zynga games.

Ashkenazi Jews: The Most Genetically Intelligent People On Earth

Ashkenazi jews highest IQ

The highest IQ of any ethnic group is Ashkenazi Jews, averaging between 112-115.  In comparison, the average IQ of Europeans is 100.  (NOTE* Researchers at Harvard have also tried to test the IQ of monkeys, but ran into trouble deciphering which test belonged to which monkey because they couldn’t sign their names on the test sheets.)

This fact is interesting for genetic researchers because Ashkenazi Jews are over-represented in high positions in society for the size of their ethic group, while other Jewish ethnic groups are not.  More than 25% of all Nobel Prizes, including Albert Einstein, have been won by Ashkenazi Jews, and over 50% of chess world champions are Ashkenazi Jews.50% of world chess champions are Ashkenazi jews

In their book, “The 10,000 Year Explosion”, Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending suggest that this group of Jewish descendants developed their high IQ’s after they moved into Northern and Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages and mostly worked in intellectually stimulating positions as merchants and money lenders (Christians were not allowed to lend money for many centuries).  The social isolation of this Jewish ethnic group in Christian Europe for hundreds of years (they were not allowed to intermarry) allowed the natural selection of these intelligence traits to occur.

It’s not all wine and roses though.  Ashkenazi Jews also share a much higher rate of certain genetic diseases and disorders including Tay-Sachs disease, Gaucher’s disease, and certain kinds of breast cancer.  As mentioned earlier, some of these diseases may actually help increase their IQ.

genes determine intelligence

In general, IQ in America has been rising at a rate of over .3 points per year.  Proof of increasing IQ, however, is becoming more difficult to find…

******IQ in America increased 30 points

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5 Amazing Things About Your Genes & DNA

Weird Things That Are Genetic

What is Genetic?

Genetic Information

5 Amazing Facts About Your Genes and DNA

14 Jul

1. You are a Mutant!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle DNA

The average person is born with 60 mutations in their DNA from their parents.  These kinds of mutations in DNA are thought to be largely responsible for the evolution of all species on Earth over millions of years.

As you age, environmental factors like UV rays from sunlight, radiation from x-rays and other medical procedures, and probably talking too much on your cell phone, cause additional mutations in the DNA, furthering your chances of one day becoming one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


2. You can be your own Twin.

Chimerism you can be your own twin

There is a way for you to have 2 different sets of DNA in your body.  It is called Chimerism.  When a pregnancy starts out as a set of twins, one of the twins is often absorbed into the cells of the other, and only one child is born. Sometimes the absorbed twin’s cells with slightly different DNA keep dividing, and they remain in your system.

In 2002, a woman named Lydia Fairchild took a DNA test as part of an application process for a welfare program, but when the results came back it showed that she was not the mother of her children!

The court wanted to prosecute her for fraud even though hospital records showed that she gave birth to the children.  She was eventually able to prove that she was affected by chimerism and had two sets of DNA in her body.  She was actually her own twin.

(PUBLIC ADVISORY: If you begin to grow a second head, please call a real doctor for actual medical advice!)


3. DNA is right handed.

DNA is right handed

The ladder-like structure of DNA usually twists to the right.  This twist makes DNA’s shape asymmetrical.  If you try to superimpose the mirror image of DNA onto itself, it will not fit. Just like your right and left hand.

There are forms of DNA that have been discovered to have other shapes, for example there occasionally arises a left-handed form of DNA that scientists have called “Z-DNA”.  (Fortunately, Z does not mean zombie, however it is only a matter of time until a comic book writer uses it that way.)  It seems to occur briefly during biological activities such as DNA transcription.

Most scientists believe that DNA randomly arose as a right handed structure, and all DNA that has evolved since has had to follow that structure. DNA’s right-handedness may also be due to the Earth’s natural rotation, early human tire swing experimentation, or because our DNA is just too lazy to be ambidextrous.


4. Your DNA can reach to the stars.

Your DNA Can Reach to the Sun and back

If you unraveled the DNA in a single cell in your body it would be about 6 feet long.  You have around 50-100 TRILLION cells in your body.

If you put all the DNA molecules from every cell in your body together they would reach to the sun and back numerous times.  (some calculate as many as 600 times to the sun and back!)


5. There is MORE bacterial DNA in your body than your own DNA.

human body has more bacteria dna

Believe it or not, there are about 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than your own cells.  That’s like 500-1000 Trillion bacteria cells floating around your body. That means there’s more DNA from bacteria inside you than human DNA.

Bacteria are super, super small, about 10 to 20 times smaller than a human cell, so you don’t really notice them.   1-3% of your body weight is actually bacteria, which will soon lead to an anti-bacterial weight-loss challenge.  (You heard it here first!)

Don’t freak out though – a lot of that bacteria is helpful and necessary for many bodily functions.  As for the rest of it… remember to wash you hands before you eat.



Weird Things That Are Genetic

What is Genetic?

Genetic Information

5 Weird Things That Are Genetic

12 Jul photic sneeze reflex is genetic

photic sneeze reflex is genetic

  • Achoo syndrome is genetic.

The photic sneeze reflex is a genetic trait that causes people to sneeze when exposed to bright light. It is actually a dominant trait.

To test this genetic trait, go into a dark room (a bathroom with the lights out, a photo development room, a movie theater) and wait for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.  Then quickly exit the room and look at the a bright light, preferably the sun.  If you sneeze, then you are one of the 20-30% of the population afflicted with sun sneezing.  Most people with the photic sneeze reflex will sneeze 2-3 times when exposed to a bright light.

ACHOO comes from the acronym (or backronym): “Autosomal dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst” – (ACHOO) syndrome.


  • Bitter tastes are genetic.

PTC taste is genetic

In 1931 a scientist names Aurthur Fox spilled a chemical powder called PTC next to his colleague.  The powder blew into the air and went into their mouths.  Dr. Fox tasted nothing but was surprised to find that his colleague complained of an extremely bitter taste.

They tested the chemical on more people and discovered that about 70% of people can taste PTC, and for the rest it is completely tasteless.  Genetic scientists discovered a genetic component for PTC taste receptors, and in 2003 they found the exact gene that codes for the taste receptor on our tongues.

There are about 30 genes that code for bitter taste receptors on the tongue.  These genes may determine whether or many vegetables, like broccoli, taste good to you or not.  Scientists think that the ability to taste bitter chemicals helped us survive in the wilderness by warning us when a plant might be poisonous.  No wonder some people hate veggies!  Their bodies think they might be poison!!!


  • Asparagus urine is genetic.

asparagus urine is genetic

When you eat asparagus, sulfur compounds in the vegetable quickly move into the urine.  As soon as 15-30 minutes after eating asparagus, many people report a strong odor in their urine.  As if we needed another reason not to want to eat asparagus.

When scientists studied the smell, they found that only some people could smell the odor, and not everyone’s urine smelled like sulfur.  Some people could smell it in their own urine and in others, while some people couldn’t smell it at all.

This lead geneticists to propose that there may be two separate genes at work – one that determines if your urine will smell bad after eating asparagus (a very important gene indeed), and one that determines if you can actually smell it.

It turns out that most people’s urine does smell bad when they eat asparagus, but only about 20% of people can actually smell it.


  • Cilantro tasting like soap is genetic.

cilantro (coriander) soap taste is genetic

Ever had someone slap you after they tried your new cilantro stuffed salsa?  Me neither, but apparently it’s a big problem.

It turns out that about 10-15% of the population has a set of genes that make cilantro taste like soap!  Cilantro has aldehyde chemicals in it that people are very sensitive to if they have a certain olfactory (smell) receptor gene.  The degree of soapiness can vary, but some people swear it tastes really really bad.

Also, the actual name for Cilantro is Coriander, which sounds much prettier but far less tasty.


  • Beeturia is genetic.

beeturia pink pee is genetic

(Don’t worry, that’s just beet juice in the picture above, I promise…)

When some people eat beets, their urine turns red, often totally freaking them out and causing many unnecessary visits to the doctor.

Turns out that there are red pigments in beets called betalain pigments that don’t always get broken down by the digestive system in certain people.  This condition actually has a name: beeturia (or betaninuria).

The inability to metabolize betalain pigments is genetic, but the intensity of the red urine varies greatly, and as such, the intensity is most likely determined by other factors.  It’s also a fantastic Halloween trick.


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5 Amazing Things About Your Genes & DNA

What is Genetic?

Genetic Information


What is Genetic?

12 Jul what is genetic?

Do you know what physical traits are hereditary?


Heredity Definition: inherited traits passed down from the parent’s genes to the child.


What physical traits are genetically passed down from a single gene?

genes for eye color

  • Eye color is genetic.

Eye color is also based on how much melanin you have, which determines how much color pigment is deposited in your iris. Just like skin color and hair color, our genes give us a natural color, but those colors will change as we are exposed to more or less sunlight.

FUN FACT: Your true eye color is not determined until age 3!

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