back to article We're raising generations of MUTANT KIDS, says Icelandic study

The trend for women to have children with older chaps than of yore is causing many more mutations among children, according to a study of the genetics of Icelandic families. There's no call to panic regarding the new generations of mutant kids, however: they shouldn't be unduly prone to either troublesome superpowers nor more …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. JohnG Silver badge

    ""...we sequenced 78 trios, a total of 219 distinct individuals..."

    Not much of sample size, is it?

    Is the Icelandic population representative or is there more inbreeding than in larger countries/regions?

    1. Armando 123

      Since Iceland is something like 99% Norwegian in origin and relatively isolated, it is a good place to do genetic studies due to the limited influence of immigrant populations. That would also imply that one would need smaller sample sizes (less need to examine/remove outliers) for the same confidence levels in statistical studies.

      Mine's the one with the copy of Bevington in the pocket.

      1. Chemist


        They have a relatively stable population AND well-recorded health data.

        So data-mining for health trends/associations is well worth while.

  2. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Getting older

    Seeing as we tend to wear out after about 25 years it's not surprising that the older we get before having kids the more chance there is of things going iffy.

    We only live longer 'cos we've found more ways to prop up a failing body - it's not as if we've evolved to live longer.

  3. SuperTim

    Careful with your evolution mumbo jumbo.

    Certain folks still think that we all literally used to be monkeys and just grew up to be people...Though some of us are apparently closer relatives than others.

    Survival of the fittest has long since gone. It is now survival of the 15 kid family on benefits....(Shakes his rolled up daily mail at the immigrants!)

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: Careful with your evolution mumbo jumbo.

      Acksherly the true definition of 'fittest' in evolution is circular.

      If you breed, you're fit. If you don't, you're not.

      Any suggestion that 'fit' means some kind of Fifty Shades of Grey Nordic superhuman with egg box abs and an IQ higher than that of the entire Linux kernel dev team circa 2001 utterly misunderstands how evolution works.

      If the proverbial fecund and feckless teenage single mums on benefits are breeding while members of Mensa with jobs in the City aren't, it's not the teenage etcs who should be worried about their evolutionary viability.

      1. Flatpackhamster

        Re: Careful with your evolution mumbo jumbo.

        No, 'fittest' means 'most suited to their evolutionary niche'.

        It could be argued that in purely evolutionary terms "feckless teenage single mums on benefits" are supremely suited to the environment created for them by the welfare state, and are therefore the 'fittest'. Since the purported FTSMOB has her first child at 14 and then has an average of 4 children, each of which will then go on to have their first child at 14, they're far more 'fitted' than middle-class Jasmine and Tarquin who raise one or two children at the age of 35.

        The question arises, of course, of what happens if the evolutionary niche disappears.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Careful with your evolution mumbo jumbo.

        > Acksherly the true definition of 'fittest' in evolution is circular.

        > If you breed, you're fit. If you don't, you're not.

        There are so many variables that you really can't use any acquired data to determine what might happen in the future and its so complicated and we invoke such massive time-spans that we can rarely even determine the reasons for what happened in the past. We only look back retrospectively and say, "Oh, that one was the fittest because it survived," then we guess why. Evolution is a taxonomy. Its like a dewey decimal catalogue in a library. Mostly we wonder through the library and pick up a book and if we haven't seen it before, we add it to the catalogue. We can use the catalogue to guess at where things might be found, but having a catalogue system doesn't create the books and it doesn't mean that authors with the same name are in fact related (though they might have been).

        Since we can't determine what makes a creature fit or unfit, evolution doesn't really do much for us, scientifically. We don't need it for medicine, chemistry or physics. We don't need it for looking at existing biology. Since "modern man" didn't evolve in response to the environment - no changes during the an ice age or subsequent warming, it isn't much use when looking at the impact of the environment on humanity. The only thing it really seems to accomplish is to provide a philosophical basis for rejecting the idea of a deity who will judge us.

        Its all a bit pointless really.

      3. Pinchy

        Re: Careful with your evolution mumbo jumbo.

        "If you breed, you're fit. If you don't, you're not."

        So all those inbred chavs were fitter than me? Hilarious.

        Getting something pregnant does not equal fitness in modern society.

    2. Whys

      Re: Careful with your evolution mumbo jumbo.

      Actually, we evolved from great apes. Monkeys have tails. That should help you in the future. ;)

      Also, survival of the fittest absolutely still exists, and human beings themselves have become the most prominent form of natural selection. Not only do our activities impact the evolution or extinction of the other species, but our own activities also impact our own evolution as we compete with one another.

      Tho I don't agree with the notion that the rich are somehow automatically more "fit", there exists the reality that the rich are more likely to survive and pass on their genes. Think: Titanic.

      1. I_am_Chris

        Re: Careful with your evolution mumbo jumbo.

        "Actually, we evolved from great apes. Monkeys have tails. That should help you in the future"

        You're both wrong.

        We didn't evolve from apes or monkeys. We evolved from a more recent common ancestor to the apes than we did the monkeys, thus we're more similar to modern apes than modern monkeys. What those common ancestors were we don't really know as they only existed ~5 million years ago .

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Careful with your evolution mumbo jumbo.

          Since all of genus homo is classified as hominidae (great apes), then it stands to reason that all of our antecedents up to (and perhaps slightly predating) the last common ancestor would also be considered “apes”.

          All hominidae (including all members of genus homo) share certain physiological traits in common that differentiate us from other primates (and lemurs, to whom we are also closely related.) Homo is most closely related to pan (chimps and bonobos,) with gorilla and pongo (orangutans) rounding out the extant species.

          Now, if you wanted to get into a debate about the inclusion of hylobatidae (gibbons) in “apes” then you are some good company. The current consensus is that “great apes” be restricted to true hominids; a distinction which excludes hylobatidae.

          So yes, we did in fact evolve from apes. Which makes perfect sense, considering that genus homo are in fact still quite definitively apes.

          But “we evolved from monkeys” is a trickier one. Where do you draw the line on “monkeys?” Simiiformes (which would be where you’d find the last common ancestor of all monkeys and apes) breaks down into platyrrhini (new world monkeys) and catarrhini. Catarrhini contains both cercopithecoidea (old world monkeys) and hominoidea (apes).

          Although it is common to group all monkeys together as if they were a homogenous genetic lineage, there are in fact two very distinct groups. Catarrhini are as differentiated from platyrrhini as platyrrhini are from lemurs. Indeed: new world monkeys show a remarkable genetic differentiation, giving rise to several major families; something that neither catarrhini nor homonoidea seems to have managed.

          But we are apes. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room here. We just haven’t diversified enough to be something “special, unique and different” yet. We area a separate species, but not yet a separate family, let alone superfamily!

          So I’d ditch the whole “evolved from monkeys” thing altogether. “Monkeys” is meaningless. But you’ll not escape that we evolved from apes. My dad was an ape. So was yours. I’m an ape sir, and you are too.

          1. Chris Coles

            Re: Careful with your evolution mumbo jumbo.

            There are two separate "lines of evolution" of the genus Homo Sapiens, not one. Why do I say that? Because I, (and many around me here in the South of England), have a VERY distinct ridge of bone running from front to back down the centre of my skull; whereas others have a totally rounded, like an eggshell, skull form.

            In the past, I was told my skull shape was caused by the manner of my birth and that it was due to the way the plates of my skull fused after birth. Now I have come to the conclusion that the whole idea of defining a different skull shape as a different genus became impossible due to the stupidities from WW2 NAZI experiments. Another reason being, (and you can easily try this for yourselves), that people seem to find it VERY difficult to feel the top of another individuals skull.

            Be that as it may, considering the strength of the real difference between my skull shape and structure, to that of others with a totally smooth, rounded skull; I am convinced that I must be from a different line of evolution to the other skull form.

            Again, my father is listed in Salt Lake City as a member of a family that "Lives to a great age", so, while I am 68 years old, I am also very fit and agile and thus expect to live to that great age. Oh! and he is also listed as a direct descendant of Princess Pocahontas; which makes me a Pow tan Red Indian Prince many times removed. :)

            In which case, there is much more to learn that that presently posited.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: Careful with your evolution mumbo jumbo.

              Actually, you'd be completely wrong. All extant members of homo sapiens sapiens (the only subspecies of the only remaining species (homo sapiens) from genus homo) can trace their lineage to mitochondrial eve and y chromosome adam.

              Mitochondrial eve - contrary to the biblical reference in her name - was not the only woman of her time. She was however the most "fit:" all extant humans are her descendants; no lineages survived from any of her contemporaries. Similarly, Y chromosome Adam - far from the only man of his day - was simply the most fit. Adam lived about 142,000 years ago, and we are all his descendants.

              It is generally considered that this occurred before the “out of Africa” migration. Once out of Africa both European and Asian Cro Magnons interbred with other hominids. Europeans with Neanderthals and Asians with both Neanderthals and Denisovans. There is no evidence of gene transfer between Neanderthals or Denisovans to the Cro Magnons living in Africa at the time. (Though with modern intermixing this is becoming less and less relevant.)

              So there are exceptionally small genetic deviations between the three primary populations of humans based on horizontal gene transfer between the three extant human subspecies shortly after the “out of Africa” migration, however it did not affect either our mitochondrial or Y chromosome lineages. (Which is to say, the genes are pretty dilute in today’s populations!)

              You can always attempt to prove that you are a separate species. Go to and get your DNA sequenced. If you are a separate subspecies (or if your mitochondrial DNA or Y chromosome differs from the rest of humanity) then I promise you, the geneticists will be all over you like white on rice. Until then, suppositions of subspeciation within humanity have no basis in fact. They are as erroneous as the bullshit Aryan race theories espoused by certain madmen, and potentially as dangerous.

              There is simply no evidence whatsoever to support subspeciation within the only extant lineage of humans.

  4. James 51 Silver badge

    The title is too long.

    Didn't their government pass a law basically allowing companies to go through people's medical records (suitably anonymised of course *nudge nudge*). That and historically low rates of immigration with a good health care system to keep track of the guinea pigs, walking cash cows subjects means we could be seeing a lot more studies like this being done there.

    Of course the ConDems are trying to get similar laws passed here.

  5. Steve Evans


    Maybe the very small Icelandic gene-pool and remote location means everyone is now interbreeding with their distant cousins?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Or...

      It's a major research interest among young male evolutionary biologists why this process produce women that look like THAT in Iceland but not in Norfolk

  6. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

    "any dullard"?

    ... any dullard who can get through life well enough to attract a mate, you mean. Natural Selection is only one factor. In animals, Sexual Selection is pretty important too, and in most of our societies, sexual selection is the dominant evolutionary driver.

    There's also a suggestion that autism is a result of mutation, which is news to me (not a researcher in the field, but you do need to understand ASDs to work in the tech industry). The current consensus is that there is no single genetic cause: it's a set of symptoms which manifest to a greater or lesser extent, each of which may be caused by multiple genetic combinations.

    Incidentally, and of some interest to the El Reg readership, autistic children are more likely to be children of engineers than non-autistic children are ( see Baron-Cohen, et al, Autism, 1997, 1, 153-163., or, for less academically-minded folk, have a look for the Channel 4 "Equinox: Mindreaders" documentary from 1997 that covers the same subject) .

    1. Figgus

      Re: "any dullard"?

      ... any dullard who can get through life well enough to attract a mate, you mean. Natural Selection is only one factor. In animals, Sexual Selection is pretty important too, and in most of our societies, sexual selection is the dominant evolutionary driver.

      Great... so stupid ugly losers can hook up with other stupid ugly losers and make exceptionally stupid ugly loserish offspring that everyone else has to support in perpetuity. Awesome.

      1. Citizen Kaned

        Re: "any dullard"?

        have you never seen the '2 wrongs make a right' ladies. both parents are munters but produce some stunning women....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          I always think it's just a matter of ripening time.

          Unfortunately I have experienced this phenomenon first-hand. Heed the signs.

        2. Richard Wharram

          Re: '2 wrongs make a right' ladies

          Are they the same as the '2 girls 1 cup' ladies?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: '2 wrongs make a right' ladies

            "Re: '2 wrongs make a right' ladies. Are they the same as the '2 girls 1 cup' ladies?"

            No... that would be "2 rights make a very, *very* wrong."

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge


      It kind of depends which side of the fence you're on. From my side of the fence, it's a scale from being able to recognise patterns and see deviations from them and an inherent ability to undrstand how things work; through to being able to gossip non-stop about which big-brother contestant said what about which celebrity.

      My jacket is the one where the sleeves do up at the back, thanks.

  7. Captain Save-a-ho


    All we have to do get sharks with frickin laser beams is ensure the shark daddies are old? Yeah, baby.

  8. John Mikesell

    Blue Moon

    Mutation provides raw material for selection.

  9. Citizen Kaned

    well, as a first time dad at 37 i knew there was a possibility of mutations.

    so far only the special powers of projectile vomiting and waking up every hour in the night have come to light...

    bah, these super powers are shit!

    1. annodomini2

      Sounds like you need a beer! ;)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No the do mutate..

      Into 5 am rising, expensive item throwing, telly smashing, noise generating, infection carrying, grey hair generating, wrinkle inducing, little ****'s....and that's the good ones....

      Welcome to fatherhood....

    3. Death Boffin

      Old is as Old does

      Had my first one at 43 and now I am 51 with a 5 month old. We just start late in my family, my mom was 42 when she had me and 43 when she had my brother. No serious mutations seen, but an unusual number of the family are engineers and accountants...

  10. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    historical data

    "Icelander chaps didn't usually get a chance at fathering kids until they were 34 at least, and the place wasn't overrun with autistic kids or anything"

    Although that could be a lack of diagnosis. Perhaps Thorvin Skullsplitter just suffered from hyper-activity-skull-splitting disorder?

    It could solve the historic question of why the Scandinavians suddenly became viking raiders. Perhaps it was just a boring school trip to Lindisfarne but after a week at sea with everybody having ADHD they were just a little over-excited when they landed.

    1. Armando 123

      Re: historical data

      "hyper-activity-skull-splitting disorder"

      I think my band has a new name ...

    2. Rick Giles

      @Yet Another Anonymous coward Re: historical data

      My cow-orkers are looking at me funny. I must be slap happy, but that was frikkin' funny.

  11. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
    Paris Hilton

    Evolution of intelligence?

    I reckon the average Icelander will have an IQ of 100 by the year 2112.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: Evolution of intelligence?

      Yes but the important question is will the distribution be normal, linear or something else entirely? Many moons ago when I dated a high school teacher it seems that many exams had an inverted bell curve with lots of As, lots of Fs and not many in between.

  12. compton

    Random mutation is only one cause of genetic diversity

    Shagging is the other one.

    I'm no biologist (although I have just read wikipedia). My understanding is that our cells each contain a set of chromosome pairs, except for the sperm and egg cells, which have a set of unpaired chromosomes, ie half the number.

    After a good ol' bit of bonking, mum & dad chromosomes all pair up to create a completely new set of chromosome pairs for the offspring. Additionally, the chromosomes themselves can swap bits of DNA with each other.

    All rather tawdry, but the upshot is that sex can produce genetic traits that neither parent possess. Sexual species have vastly more genetic diversity than asexual species, and this greater genetic diversity leads to more rapid evolution. This is why all 'advanced' species are sexual.

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: Random mutation is only one cause of genetic diversity

      No, recombination can produce /physical/ traits that neither parent possesses, but the genetic traits are continuations (because they're only going to pass one of each pair to their children, aren't they?)

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Random mutation is only one cause of genetic diversity

        No, recombination can produce /physical/ traits that neither parent possesses, but the genetic traits are continuations

        Recombination in sexual reproduction can only produce a genotype that contains genes from the parents, yes. But evolution is not limited to novel genotypes. Novel phenotypes can lead to variation and subspecies. Gene expression is very important here; people have put far too much emphasis on the genotype itself, when as it turns out expression mechanisms (epigenetics) is hugely important in determining the resulting phenotype.

        And sexual reproduction is not the only source of recombination. Organisms can acquire new DNA from viruses and prions, for example, and some bacteria are known to exchange bits of DNA with one another. Multicellular organisms are less likely to pass on genotypical changes of this sort, because they have specialized gamete-producing cells and those cells specifically have to get the new genes in order for them to be passed on. But it's still an evolutionary mechanism. The "genetic drift" of the Starlink maize genes is an example. Whether it counts as "mutation" is a question of semantics; it seems that evolutionary biologists like to define some kinds of recombination as mutation, and others as not mutation, but I'm not sure what justifies the distinction, frankly.

  13. spydrvloce

    This is what's wrong with Iceland...

    ...these kooks sit around and count sperm then fabricate a "report" on the pretense that they're such a pure race.They are no purer, healthier or smarter (considering the amount of cigarettes they smoke or booze they consume each day and especially on "Cultural Day") than anyone else. Thank goodness they didn't make it on to the UN Security Council or they'd be publishing even more junk. If I were them, I'd stop having guys wank into test tubes while "employing" 50-100 "scientists" to leer at it under microscopes and start doing something about thier terrorist financial sytem that continues create huge chasms between the haves and have-nots. 90% percent of the country's population is being tortured by governent an banking industry imposed financial thumbscrews. One might guess that they're wanking into test tubes to relieve the stress.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: This is what's wrong with Iceland...

      Wanking into a test tube?

      Sheesh. A real man would wank into a beaker.

    2. squigbobble

      Re: This is what's wrong with Iceland...

      I don't think they consider themselves a 'race' but having been to Iceland it's really very bizarre how similar everyone looks, especially the men.

  14. martin in toronto

    How To Be Topp

    Gotta luv Molesworth et al ... as any fule kno ... "'Reality,' sa molesworth 2, 'is so unspeakably sordid it make me shudder.'" (Whizz for Atomms). So much fore paters.

  15. Bucky 2

    Getting YOUNGER

    The only data I have on "normal" social behavior is what I see on TV. I figure TV's as scientific as it gets.

    In 1936, the ages of the stars of "Romeo and Juliet"--that is, society's view of what the ages of star-crossed "young" lovers would be--were 34 and 43.

    In 1996, this was reduced to 17 and 22.

    Now, granted, Shakespeare's idea was that they were about 14 or so. But that's ANTIQUITY. I have hard proof--HARD PROOF--that "young" couples are obviously younger today than they were in the 1st half of the 20th century.

    HARD proof, I say.

  16. C-N


    "Ladies, by contrast, are issued their entire load of eggs at a relatively young age,..."

    Negatory. And damn you for making me read through these articles to find you a link.

  17. Big_Boomer


    From what I see around me most reproduction is done by the sub-100 IQ group which would over time reduce intelligence. I have chosen to remove my mutated genes from the pool as I can't stand kids.

    As for the "Average intelligence of an Icelander" it will ALWAYS be 100 no matter how their intelligence changes.

    An IQ of 100 is the DEFINITION of average intelligence for a given population group.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mr. Obvious Attacks Again

      "As for the "Average intelligence of an Icelander" it will ALWAYS be 100 no matter how their intelligence changes."

      Do you, perchance, not think that might have been entirely the whole point of the joke* made a few posts above?

      * Joke: /jōk/ (n) A thing that someone says to cause amusement or laughter, esp. a story with a funny punchline.

  18. mhenriday

    «The flaw there is that one might well argue

    that modern human civilisation has largely eliminated natural selection and survival of the fittest: a dullard or other genetically sub-par type, in some circumstances anyway, would seem just as likely (if not more) to propagate his or her genes as someone with useful abilities is.» «[M]ight well argue», indeed, Lewis, if one were unfamiliar with research on the matter, for example, that on natural and sexual selection in a Finnish population between 1760 and 1849 described here ( or here ( One can't help wondering if the ability to understand the science concerning human evolution or, for that matter, global warming, is one of the «useful abilities» to which you refer (without specification) above....


  19. They Said WHAT?

    Idiocracy - Comedy or Prophecy??

    Has anyone seen the film "Idiocracy"? It's a comedy starring Luke Wilson

    It's basically about the world being run by idiots because the Intelligent career people hold off having kids until it's too late, while the trailer park people pop kids out like fun.

    It appealed to my kind of humour, but hell, it has a possible true streak running through it which is pretty worrying.

    1. Peter Johnstone
      Thumb Up

      Re: Idiocracy - Comedy or Prophecy??

      I've seen it, coincedentally, I watched it having seen it mentioned in a comment here on el reg!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm not sure it's accurate to say that every case of autism is a tragedy as the author implied. I doubt that most high-functioning autistic people (me included ;) would swap to be neurotypical. It's a pain in the arse being autistic sometimes but I'm not too comfortable about my existence (without autism the me who is typing this message would not exist) being described as a "tragedy".

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019