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Exaggerated claims from genetic ancestry testing companies undermine serious research into human genetic history

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You may have missed the latest genetic discovery. As reported by The Daily Telegraph on Friday: "One million British men may be directly descended from the Roman legions". The story reappeared on Sunday, at the Who Do You Think You Are – Live event at London's Olympia, when it was repeated by Alistair Moffatt, the managing director of BritainsDNA, the company behind the claims.

Such stories are becoming increasingly common in newspapers, on television and radio. Last week on the BBC miniseries Meet the Izzards we were told that Eddie Izzard is a Viking descendant on his mother's side and an Anglo-Saxon descendant on his father's. Last year the Observer reported that Tom Conti has Saracen origins and is a relative of Napoleon Bonaparte.

And for upwards of £150 you too can have your DNA "tested" by any of a number of direct-to-consumer ancestry companies. But how reliable are these claims? The truth is that there is usually little scientific substance to most of them and they are better thought of as genetic astrology.

Animal model of human evolution indicates thick hair mutation emerged 30,000 years ago

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“Thicker hair, tooth shape, more sweat glands … could have increased fitness, but for quite different reasons,” said Professor Mark Thomas (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment). Read: UCL News

Pascale Gerbault PhD Success

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The Department and Pascale's PhD supervisors, Prof Mark Thomas and Prof Dallas Swallow, warmly congratulate Pascale on the successful defense of her thesis entitled 'Modeling demographic and evolutionary history: Integrating genetic and archaeological data' at her viva exam on Friday, 8 February. 

Congratulations Liz Harley on the successful completion of her PhD

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Our warmest congratulations to Elisabeth Harley who successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled 'Reproductive quality and mating strategy in stalk-eyed flies', supervised by Professor Kevin Fowler and Professor Andrew Pomiankowski.

Matt Piper on diet and ageing

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How does what we eat affect how we age? Is it a question of quantity, or is quality the key? With the global population getting older and many of the world's most devastating diseases linked to the process of ageing, answering these questions could be essential to a healthy future. Matt Piper, from the Institute of Healthy Ageing at UCL, talks to Benjamin Thompson about the science behind a healthy diet.

This packed lunch event was recorded live on 5 December 2012 at Wellcome Collection.

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