All humans are 99.9% alike.
That’s according to Wits University education specialist Dr Ian McKay.
“The differences between races‚ which don’t really exist‚ are just things in our head‚” he said.
McKay was speaking at Wits Origins Centre on Saturday at a DNA ancestry testing workshop‚ attended by nearly 30 people.
The testing determines one’s ancestry but not genealogy‚ which studies your family tree.
Nelson Mandela‚ Desmond Tutu‚ comedians Leon Schuster and Marc Lottering and radio presenter Jeremy Mansfield are just some of the famous South Africans who have undergone the test and shared their results.
Rajeshree Mahabeer‚ a National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) medical scientist‚ said most people who took the test did so to complement their genealogy research‚ or because they had been adopted.
“They feel this might give them that little bit of information‚ that little bit of connection to where their ancestors may have come from. It links them to something.”
The NHLS does two types of DNA ancestry testing.
The first examines the DNA from one’s mitochondrion‚ which is found in the cytoplasm of a cell. Children inherit mitochondrial DNA from their mother.
The second examines the genes passed down from fathers to sons in the Y chromosome. This DNA is used to determine your maternal or paternal haplogroup‚ which is a combination of numbers and letters that indicate your DNA mutation. The haplogroup combination is then run through databases to determine where your ancestors came from.
Haplogroups have been mapped across the world and entered into databases that are becoming more refined as more people are tested and technology advances.
McKay said: “We have the most variation [of haplogroups] here in Africa. Which is actually really good evidence that humans arose in Africa.”
Mahabeer‚ however‚ said that one’s ancestry did not determine identity.
“Whatever your result is‚ it does not make you someone else from who you are.”
Tess Young said her ancestors came to South Africa from southern China in the 1930s.
“I am convinced I have Italian blood in me‚ because I like pasta so much.”
Mateenah Hunter said when the first tests were done at the Origins Centre she thought it could help her make sense of her mixed family background.
“I like the idea of having a rough idea of my ancestry.”
Kath Robins said a friend had her DNA sent overseas for testing and “it came back she was Khoisan”.
“Those kinds of things I find fascinating.”
The tests cost R1‚400 for women and R2‚100 for men. The test is more expensive for men because both their mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA are tested.
by Nico Gous-TimesLIVE