18 January 2006
Check your Chromosomes
(You, too, could be a descendent of a sadistic Irish warlord)
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Scientists in Ireland may have found the country's most fertile male, with more than 3 million men worldwide among his offspring.
The scientists, from Trinity College Dublin, have discovered that as many as one in twelve Irish men could be descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, a 5th-century warlord who was head of the most powerful dynasty in ancient Ireland.
The research was carried out by PhD student Laoise Moore, at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity. Moore, testing the Y chromosome which is passed on from fathers to sons, examined DNA samples from 800 males across Ireland.
The results -- which have been published in the American Journal of Human Genetics -- showed the highest concentration of related males in northwest Ireland, where one in five males had the same Y chromosome.
His team then consulted with genealogical experts who provided them with a contemporary list of people with surnames that are genealogically linked to the last known relative of the "Ui Neill" dynasty, which literally means descendants of Niall.
The results showed the new group had the same chromosome as those in the original sample, proving a link between them and the Niall descendents.
"The frequency (of the Y chromosome) was significantly higher in that genealogical group than any other group we tested," said Bradley, whose surname is also linked to the medieval warlord. Other modern surnames tracing their ancestry to Niall include Gallagher, Boyle, O'Donnell and O'Doherty.
Niall reportedly had 12 sons, many of whom became powerful Irish kings themselves. But because he lived in the 5th century, there have been doubts the king -- who is said to have brought the country's patron saint, Patrick, to Ireland -- even existed.
"Before I would have said that characters like Niall were almost mythological, like King Arthur, but this actually puts flesh on the bones," Bradley said.
When international databases were checked, the chromosome also turned up in roughly 2 percent of all male New Yorkers.
So glad I married an English-Lebanese-Italian.