Scientists discover most fertile Irish male
By Siobhan Kennedy2 hours, 4 minutes ago
Scientists in Ireland may have found the
country’s most fertile male, with more than 3 million men
worldwide among his offspring.
The scientists, from Trinity College Dublin, have
discovered that as many as one in twelve Irish men could be
descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, a 5th-century
warlord who was head of the most powerful dynasty in ancient
His genetic legacy is almost as impressive as Genghis Khan,
the Mongol emperor who conquered most of Asia in the 13th
century and has nearly 16 million descendants, said Dan
Bradley, who supervised the research.
“It’s another link between profligacy and power,” Bradley
told Reuters. “We’re the first generation on the planet where
if you’re successful you don’t (always) have more children.”
The research was carried out by PhD student Laoise Moore,
at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity. Moore, testing
the Y chromosome which is passed on from fathers to sons,
examined DNA samples from 800 males across Ireland.
The results — which have been published in the American
Journal of Human Genetics — showed the highest concentration
of related males in northwest Ireland, where one in five males
had the same Y chromosome.
Bradley said the results reminded the team of a similar
study in central Asia, where scientists found 8 percent of men
with the same Y chromosome. Subsequent studies found they
shared the same chromosome as the dynasty linked to Genghis
GENGHIS KHAN EFFECT
“It made us wonder if there could be some sort of Genghis
Khan effect in Ireland and the best candidate for it was
Niall,” Bradley said.
His team then consulted with genealogical experts who
provided them with a contemporary list of people with surnames
that are genealogically linked to the last known relative of
the “Ui Neill” dynasty, which literally means descendants of
The results showed the new group had the same chromosome as
those in the original sample, proving a link between them and
the Niall descendents.
“The frequency (of the Y chromosome) was significantly
higher in that genealogical group than any other group we
tested,” said Bradley, whose surname is also linked to the
medieval warlord. Other modern surnames tracing their ancestry
to Niall include Gallagher, Boyle, O’Donnell and O’Doherty.
For added proof, the scientists used special techniques to
age the Y chromosome, according to how many mutations had
occurred in the genetic material over time. The number of
mutations was found to be in accordance with chromosomes that
would date back to the last known living relative of Niall.
Niall reportedly had 12 sons, many of whom became powerful
Irish kings themselves. But because he lived in the 5th
century, there have been doubts the king — who is said to have
brought the country’s patron saint, Patrick, to Ireland — even
“Before I would have said that characters like Niall were
almost mythological, like King Arthur, but this actually puts
flesh on the bones,” Bradley said.
When international databases were checked, the chromosome
also turned up in roughly 2 percent of all male New Yorkers.