Tracing Our Ancestors

Tracing Our Ancestors by Rick Kittles, a genetics professor at UIC, was about how to use DNA to trace our lineage. He also talked about how there are many different genes mixed in everyone from all over the world despite how one identifies themselves.

I personally found this lecture quite dull mostly because we had covered most of the topics in biology and I already knew some of the information from other classes. Kittles went into some detail about how single nucleotide polymorphisms can serve as ID tags to trace our ancestry. He then gave two types to of analysis that helped compile genetic and ancestral information, lineage based ancestry and ancestry informative markers. Kittles also talked about how Africa has the biggest genetic variations out of all the continents which makes sense because I recently learned in honors anthropology about the “Out of Africa” hypothesis which claims that modern Homo sapiens evolved together in one place, probably Africa.

Many times in American society people identify themselves and others based on skin color but Kittles pointed out that because of a mix of genes this is not a reliable way of identification. He gave himself as an example saying that although he looks African, he also has European and Native American genes that may not be apparent at first glance. This was further shown on the slide with people who identified themselves as Native American but all had different skin colors. Kittles argued that because of this, race is not an accurate method of evaluating a person’s origin culturally. It should rather be used in a biological sense to discover a person’s ancestral origins.

What surprised me the most was finding out that there were whole businesses and organizations dedicated to finding anyone’s family tree. I actually did go home and visit the ancestry.com website to find my own family tree but gave up because I had to register and didn’t want to go through that hassle. It was interesting to see how much technology has grown that people are able to trace not only their lineage but also their genes.

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