Kissing Cousins as a Reproductive Strategy: Does Marrying Your Cousin Give You an Evolutionary Advantage?

Researchers at the deCODE Genetics company in Iceland combed through more than 150 years of data and found that "kissing cousins" produce more children and grandchildren than unrelated couples:

For women born between 1925 and 1949, with mates related at the degree of third cousins, the average number of children and grandchildren were 3.27 and 6.64, compared with 2.45 and 4.86 for those with mates who were eighth cousins, or more distantly related.

"These are counterintuitive, almost dislikable results," said Dr. Kari Stefansson, senior author of the paper on the study.

Dislikable, because our intuition is that the more closely related you are to your mate, the higher the chances of passing along the unfortunate traits so often associated with inbreeding.

Scientists are surmising that marrying your third cousin may actually be the best biological strategy for reproduction:

Now, many gene experts are scratching their heads while trying to explain the biological mechanism behind these results.

According to Stefansson, the reason that related couples were more biologically successful may be because these couples have "just right" genes when combined — not too similar, but not too dissimilar, either. [...]

"The take-home message is that ... we, as a society of [the] 21st century, have basically ruled against the marriages of closely related couples, because we do not look at it as desirable that closely related people have children," Stefansson said. "But in spite of the fact that bringing together two alleles of a recessive trait may be bad, there is clearly some biological wisdom in the union of relatively closely related people."

Link | Scientific American article - via 3quarksdaily, thanks Marilyn Terrell!

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The Arabs have been known to do this since ancient times - it's called ??? ??? (bint 'amee) which means "the daughter of my uncle"

Back in the day, when the Arabs primarily lived in familial tribes in the desert - patriarchs would try to marry their sons to the daughters of their brothers. In doing this, they would expand their own tribe and prevent other tribes from taking away their women.

This has been adopted into the culture and it's not uncommon or taboo for Arabs to marry their first cousins.
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I bet there were lot of kissing cousins in the age of early man...
Inbreeding worked out just fine.
Not that I support it... My cousins are ugly.
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I think marrying a first cousin could cause really complicated issues, like divorce. You'd still see each other (I assume) because you're still family... I feel its an awkward situation that would just get more awkward (partially because of already instilled views but also human nature...)
And I agree that more kids does not necessarily mean a better anything. It's an interesting trend but anything the researchers think it may indicate is pure speculation because there are too many variables, by family, region, country, culture, etc.
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