Having sex with your cousin? It’s 3x more likely today vs prehistoric times

By Study Finds - October 6, 2021

Only 3% of prehistoric humans mated with their cousins — it’s 10% today!


LEIPZIG, Germany — Inbreeding is practice people often link to the distance past and prehistoric humans. However, a new genetic study finds only three percent of prehistoric people were the offspring of cousins. For comparison, researchers say that number is actually ten percent today.

The findings come from a genomic analysis of 1,785 individuals who lived over the last 45,000 years. Sex between cousins or second cousins has become over three times more common, according to an international team working on the project.

“Parental relatedness of present-day humans varies substantially across the globe, but little is known about the past,” writes lead author Dr. Harald Ringbauer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and his team in the journal Nature Communications.

Previous studies have pointed to modern humans being the descendants of “extreme inbreeding” between close relatives over the years. However, the German team found our ancient ancestors rarely chose their cousins as mates.

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Tags: inbreeding