Royal Family's Inbreeding Reveals Marvel of Evolution
Researchers assert natural selection went to work to root out genetic mutations
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2013 9:22 AM CDT
Updated Apr 27, 2013 8:15 AM CDT
Habsburg kings.   (Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – Scientists have been able to study the effects of inbreeding on plants and animals in detail; when it comes to humans, not so much. As Nature explains, there isn't exactly endless data on generation after generation of inbred families—with at least one notable exception. A new study published this month in Heredity looks at inbreeding in the Habsburg royal family, known for cousins (and uncles/nieces) who did far more than kiss. What the researchers assert: natural selection went to work to weed out the worst effects of the practice. As Nature explains, "evolutionary theory predicts such a 'purging' process," and the researchers tried to root out its presence by documenting infant (under age one, not counting miscarriages and stillbirths) and childhood (through age 10) deaths.

Their expectation was that these young deaths would be the result of inbreeding; if the death rate decreased over time, that would indicate that natural selection was in fact weeding out the "deleterious alleles." And researchers say they found evidence of just that, kind of: Mortality among children decreased significantly when comparing the periods 1450-1600 and 1600-1800; among infants, however, there was an increase. The researchers believe that might be because almost-always harmful mutations (like the one responsible for cystic fibrosis) would be eliminated more rapidly than those that cause problems infrequently, and infants may have fallen victim to the latter. But not all geneticists are in agreement. Says one, "Our data would suggest that the major adverse effect of consanguineous marriage is expressed in the first year of life." The Habsburgs' final heir, who had no fewer than 17 names, died just two years ago.

More From Newser
My Take on This Story
To report an error on this story,
notify our editors.
Royal Family's Inbreeding Reveals Marvel of Evolution is...
Show results without voting
You Might Like
Showing 3 of 56 comments
May 5, 2013 12:41 AM CDT
I'd worry more about the inbreeding going on in the ghettos where few know who their father is, and women are getting it on with anyone with the $$$. Sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles are all making whoopie together without knowing it and dropping another calf. Who knows what inbreeding disaster is in the works for future generations --- or maybe that explains a lot of the insane crime in the news today by the teenagers in the ghettos.
Apr 27, 2013 2:24 PM CDT
The moral of this story is "Don't F*ck Your Cousin, Sister, Niece, Daughter, or Mom"!
Apr 27, 2013 12:38 PM CDT
All I can say is that the imperial elite started that to keep their bloodline pure, these people didn't want to mix with serfs, commoners or other races (that didn't get started until the colonies were settled). It's unhealthy both physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, Why do you think we have these bad diseases and mental disorders around?