December 26, 2022
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What Similarities Do I Have in Common with My Genetic Ancestors?

Based on the results of your DNA test, you may be prompted to ask yourself: What similarities do I have with my genetic ancestors? Here is what you should know.
Tomohiro Takano

What Similarities Do I Have in Common with My Genetic Ancestors?

Learning about your ancestry is both fun and informative. You may discover long-lost relatives or uncover portions of your family history you never knew. Finding out you have the same unusual shade of blue eyes as your great-great-great grandfather is cool, but you could share even more similarities with your genetic ancestors than you’d imagined. 

DNA at-home tests allow us to learn more in-depth information about our unique genetic “fingerprint”, and how it has affected who we are. Sharing commonalities can help us feel closer to those who have passed away.

Based on the results of your DNA test, you may be prompted to ask yourself: What similarities do I have with my genetic ancestors? 

What Are Genetics?

Genetics are defined as “the study of genes and hereditary”. In other words, genetics refers to your specific traits and qualities that are passed to you from your parents as a result of the combining of DNA sequences.

DNA is a corkscrew-shaped spiral called a double helix. These DNA sequences are the building block foundation that contains around 20,000 genes.

How Are Genes Inherited?

Genes are stored in chromosomes, which are the structures that are found in the DNA. Each human typically has 23 pairs of chromosomes found within our cells. The two chromosomes in each pair will indeed bear the same genes yet different versions as one is from each parent.

Reproductive cells receive one chromosome from each of the 23 sets of chromosomes at random. This is why siblings share genes but different versions from both mother and father.

How Do You Compare Your Genes To Your Ancestors’ Genes?

Your ancestry is determined by first taking a sample of your unique DNA specimen. Each person’s DNA is bound to be different—even identical twins.

Your genomes are then compared to documented genomes of your ancestors that are found in the ancestry database compiled by genealogists over time. Genomic variation is specific groups and populations are matched by DNA matching with your specimen sample.

What Similarities Do I Have In Common With My Ancestors?

We share the genetic code with our ancestors. Scientists have also determined that we may share physical similarities that resemble that of our ancestors. But have you ever wondered if your love of certain foods or your fast-and-furious-level driving skills are also traits you share with genetic ancestors? They could be. Here are nine surprising traits you may have inherited. 

1. Insomnia

Insomnia can have many causes, including daily stress, but researchers have found there’s also a genetic component to insomnia. A 2018 human genome study found that the inability to go to sleep easily or sleep deeply could have a genetic link. Children with mothers or other relatives on their maternal side who are insomniacs are at higher risk of having sleepless nights themselves. 

2. Pain Tolerance

Are you a tough guy, or does a paper cut cause such excruciating pain you consider a trip to the emergency room? Either way, you may have your ancient ancestors to thank. 

Pain is difficult to measure or compare, but scientists have isolated four specific genes that affect the way people perceive pain. Genetic studies on pain tolerance could lead to breakthroughs in treating chronic pain. 

3. Your Smile

You probably already know that physical traits like hair color and nose shape are linked to your genetic ancestors, but did you know you could have the same facial expressions as a relative you never met? 

In studies on a group of people who were born blind and could not replicate facial expressions by sight, researchers found that participants made facial expressions similar to those of their parents or other family members. 

4. Your Sweet Tooth

The next time you give in to a candy craving, don’t blame poor willpower; blame your ancestors. In a 2018 study, Danish researchers found that a variation of the FGF21 gene caused an almost insatiable sweet tooth. People with this gene variant crave and eat more sugar and have less body fat than those without it. 

It sounds like a miracle combination, but unfortunately, this group is also more prone to developing high blood pressure than people without the gene variant. 

5. Risky Business

According to a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science, some people who enjoy risky sports like skiing and snowboarding have a specific genetic variation. Researchers also found this population doesn’t process dopamine as efficiently as other people. 

This means they may need to take bigger risks to enjoy the same dopamine output that others experience with smaller thrills. Yes, your love of downhill slopes and other potentially dangerous activities may be thanks to your thrill-seeking ancestors. 

6. A No-Fuss Nose

A study conducted by 23andMe found that 20-40% of people have a genetic mutation that prevents them from smelling the sulfurous scent that affects urine after asparagus consumption. 

7. Being a Morning Person

The quiet stillness may attract you, but your status as an early bird is another thing you could have in common with your ancestors. Scientists have found that DNA partially determines your body clock (circadian rhythm). Fifteen genetic variants combine to predict where on the morning-lark-to-night-owl spectrum you fall. 

Like many behavioral traits, your environment and lifestyle choices also have a great deal of influence on the schedule you keep, but your natural inclination to rise early or stay up late is a link to your ancestors. 

8. Your Love (or Dislike) of Brussels Sprouts

If you enjoy kale, dark chocolate, radishes, and other bitter foods, you may have a variation of gene TAS2R38 to thank for your adventurous palate. TAS2R38 is a taste receptor gene that makes taste buds less sensitive to bitter flavors. 

It’s likely that people who can’t stand bitter tastes inherited the version of this gene variant that increases sensitivity to bitterness. 

9. Empathy Levels

Empathy and compassion for others are traits that can be learned, but people with three particular gene variants have a head start. A study published by the National Academy of Sciences found that oxytocin receptors help determine empathy. If your ancestors were empathetic, you may have inherited the genes that predict prosocial behavior, altruism, and empathy for others. 

Bottom Line

Just knowing that our physical and personality traits may have been derived from our ancestors and can make us feel closer to them. Family heritage is passed through DNA as well as strong similarities with the offspring.

These similarities can keep our ancestors’ memories alive. They can also help us learn a deeper sense of self and our perception of the world around us. The more we know about our ancestors, the more we know about ourselves.

Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO