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Today I Learned

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Some days ago I learnt from @Strange that most Europeans are descended from Charlemagne. I've learnt many other things from him. But this one got me thinking (and still is) about the likely regular Jacks and Susans, and Joes and Marys, who were especially successful in the reproductive sense, but not particularly notorious, and got their genes pushed forward in human history.

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1 minute ago, joigus said:

Some days ago I learnt from @Strange that most Europeans are descended from Charlemagne. I've learnt many other things from him. But this one got me thinking (and still is) about the likely regular Jacks and Susans, and Joes and Marys, who were especially successful in the reproductive sense, but not particularly notorious, and got their genes pushed forward in human history.

Indeed. There is nothing special about Charlemagne in this respect. It is equally true for a downtrodden peasant in rural Transylvania. 

When you are little and you think about your ancestors, you soon run into the ancestor paradox: you have two parents and 4 grandparents and 8 greatgrandparents and ... Which leads to questions like: How come the population in the past wasn't bigger than today? 

Quote

About 20 generations (about 400 years), ago we each have about a million ancestors - and after that the numbers start to get even sillier. Forty generations ago (800 years) gives us one trillion ancestors, and fifty gives one quadrillion. This is not only many, many more people than live on the planet today - it is many more than have ever lived.

"Strangers are just relatives you haven't met yet"

https://www.nature.com/articles/news990311-2

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Given that up to a third of the population of Europe died during the plague ( 1350s ), and that there wasn't much travelling or intermarriage outside of local towns, it is also possible that all of any one particular person's genes were completely wiped out.
Even those of Charlemagne.

Or am I over-analyzing ?

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29 minutes ago, MigL said:

Given that up to a third of the population of Europe died during the plague ( 1350s ), and that there wasn't much travelling or intermarriage outside of local towns, it is also possible that all of any one particular person's genes were completely wiped out.
Even those of Charlemagne.

Or am I over-analyzing ?

You can have a plague, massive wiping out of genes, but the smallest sample get amplified by the founder effect later. And what previously was a Charlemagne differential gene (I suppose Charlemagne had genes for cellular respiration too) get amplified to almost universal proportions. It's kind of a mix, filter, mutate and stretch kind of dynamics.

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Today, I learned that there is a resort in Finland that shares its name with my paternal grandfather's surname at birth ( he changed it just prior to immigrating, and then again after reaching the US.) 

Though I really shouldn't be surprised, as it basically translates to Spruce lake, and as there are a lot of lakes and Spruce trees in Finland, I'd expect it to be a fairly common name. ( Ironically, his father was a black/gun smith, so his surname could have ended up being Seppä, which would be the Finnish equivalent of Smith.)

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Posted (edited)
On 8/13/2020 at 4:11 PM, Strange said:

Indeed. There is nothing special about Charlemagne in this respect. It is equally true for a downtrodden peasant in rural Transylvania. 

When you are little and you think about your ancestors, you soon run into the ancestor paradox: you have two parents and 4 grandparents and 8 greatgrandparents and ... Which leads to questions like: How come the population in the past wasn't bigger than today? 

"Strangers are just relatives you haven't met yet"

https://www.nature.com/articles/news990311-2

If you start with 22000 genes, and in each generation backwards, it halves until you are left with one gene shared, your identifiable genetic relationship with that line ends. in about 14-15 generations. This is how I understood it but could be wrong. Assuming a gene is some indivisible unit of heredity.

Edited by StringJunky

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Today I learned, after a seagull knocked some off my roof, that the humble Lichen is a composite organism. It is a symbiotic relationship between cyanobacteria and fungi. Nearly 6% of the Earth is covered in Lichen, which is testament to, if you get along, you'll be successful. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lichen

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19 hours ago, StringJunky said:

If you start with 22000 genes, and in each generation backwards, it halves until you are left with one gene shared, your identifiable genetic relationship with that line ends. in about 14-15 generations. This is how I understood it but could be wrong. Assuming a gene is some indivisible unit of heredity.

Interesting way of looking at

10 minutes ago, Royston said:

Today I learned, after a seagull knocked some off my roof, that the humble Lichen is a composite organism. It is a symbiotic relationship between cyanobacteria and fungi. Nearly 6% of the Earth is covered in Lichen, which is testament to, if you get along, you'll be successful. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lichen

Some are symbiotes of three organisms: Cyanobacteria, fungus and yeast

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6298/488

Today I learned that “lichen” is also the name of several (rather unpleasant) skin diseases 

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Today I learned about Vavilovian mimicry.

Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov was a biologist who studied the evolution of domesticated plants, in particular rye. He proposed that rye was "accidentally" domesticated. Originally it was a weed in fields of wheat and so early farmer would pick it out to ensure their wheat could grow. But they were more efficient at picking out the immature rye plants that looked most different from wheat. So they inadvertently selected for rye plants that looked more wheat-like. Eventually rye became so similar to wheat that it was a useful grain in its own right. This is generally accepted today, even though Vavilov is largely forgotten.

Vavilov was killed by Stalin, who only liked science that fitted his political beliefs (e.g. Lysenkoism).

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My wife grows okra in the garden, and while not my favorite it does taste good fried and in small doses like in a soup or stew.

It is a staple in the Southern US but consumed less elsewhere in the country.

One of the interesting things about okra is how it was introduced into the South. When slaves were taken in Africa, mothers would often braid okra seeds into their children's hair as a bit of security for their unknown future.

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