Incest as we all know is culturally as well as medically not approved. But still some cannot resist the urge to get involved with their relative. The DNA of every living being is 99.9% the same so, it may not be as uncommon as we think it can be. Still, incest is not a good thing. We can see it’s serious consequences in the results below:
It is agreed that two adults who with consent of one another can have sex with each other but it does not cover the fact that having sexual relationship with a close relative can turn out to have grave consequences. When a person mates with a partner of completely different genes, the chance of passing on recessive genes is only 50%. Many times the genes remain dormant but when a person mates with a partner with common genes, the chance of passing on conditions known as autosomal recessive disorders which is conditions that are inherited through recessive genes, including cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and albinism—increases significantly.
Some other effects can be increased risk of infertility, birth defects like cleft palates, heart conditions, facial asymmetry, low birth weight, slow growth rate, and neonatal mortality. 40 percent of children whose parents were first-degree relatives were born with autosomal recessive disorders, congenital physical malformations, or severe intellectual deficits were found out in a study. As per the study, when first-degree relatives get into sexual relationship, the risk of their offspring suffering from an early death, serious birth defect, or mental disability increases to almost 50 percent.
Plants avoid incest
Genetic diversity has not failed to benefit any living being apart from some exception. Even plants benefit from the diversity which is why it has developed a method to avoid self pollinating. Many plants have both male and female organs which mean that they are hermaphroditic. It makes it easy to self-pollinate. Well to avoid this, plants such as petunias and tobacco plants, have advanced to develop what scientists call it the “self-incompatibility” strategy.
In this strategy, some plants can identify their own pollen once it has entered the female reproductive organ (called the “pistil”) and destroy it before fertilization occurs using a toxin called S-RNase. The S-RNase is produced even when genetically diverse pollen has entered the pistil but the plant avoids the destruction of possible pollen by withholding the toxin until it has recognized the pollen as either well-matched or mismatched.
It is not uncommon for dog breeders to mate the dogs of the same litter. But when the breeding is done over generations, some serious problems can occur. Most animals suffer the same effects as humans do like reduced fertility, slower growth rates, increased incidence of disease, and higher mortality rates. Also like humans, animals have anti-incest mechanism that allows them to identify if they are from same kin or not. For example: Female lemurs can tell if a male’s genes are too similar to her own by smelling the pheromones that emit from his genitals.
Another animal that uses smell is mice. Mice also use their smell like humans in the ‘smelly t-shirt’ test to find out if the other one is potential partner or not. According to experiments, having a brother and sister mouse in a same cage in isolation can result into mating but if the female is given with another unrelated male then she is often known to have abandon her brother. Even if she is impregnated with her brother, she aborts the pregnancy before mating with the unrelated mouse.
Hyenas don’t have the sense of smell but they still don’t mate among their group. The females mate with a hyena from a new group or the one which does not belong to that group. This forces young male hyenas to go to another group to search for female mating partner which reduces inbreeding.
But there are exceptions to it too like bedbugs. The estimated 500-percent growth of the bedbug population in recent years was partially caused by a chemical resistance to insecticides but also the bedbug’s ability to thrive on inbreeding. The resistance power of bedbugs grows as it inbreeds making the population as well as resistance power double the stronger. It must be only one of few examples when inbreeding actually benefits a species.
Incest and ethics
Some people believe that incest is not bad. When there are two adult who both have consent and don’t think of reproducing, some feel it’s okay if the sexual activity is under birth control, sterilization or homosexuality. But of course, the law has something to say to it too.
46-year-old Columbia University professor David Esptein was charged with one count of third-degree incest after being accused of having consensual sex with his 24-year-old daughter in 2010. The daughter faced no charges even though it was consensual. The reason was the law sees children as ‘protected class’ even though they have reached above the age of consent. Usually, when these things happen in siblings the older one is held more accountable.
Esptein’s lawyers had said that homosexuality is no more disgraceful than incest while lawmakers from all over the world has disagreed with him arguing that incest breaks the family unit where as homosexuality makes a family unit. Political author William Saletan says, homosexuality is an orientation, but incest is not. Banning two people of same sex to have sexual relationship would mean gay people would not be able to create family units but those attracted to close relatives can find conceivable alternate partners.
King Tut was not the only one
The Egyptian family was not the only one to inbreed. Throughout the ages, incest was common in the royal family to maintain purity in the bloodline. Similarly, for about two centuries, the Spanish Habsburg dynasty inbreed in order not to share power with outsiders. Hence, as a result in 1700, the last of the family, King Charles II died without an heir that ended the family line.
The Habsburg family was really into maintaining power into the family because before Charles death, 9 of the 11 marriages that took place in the family was between biological relatives. Starting in 1550, nobody within the dynasty married outside of their family. Charles himself was the child of an uncle-niece marriage. By some evaluation, he was one of the most inbred people in history, with 95.3 percent of his genes traceable to just five ancestors. He has many descriptions that were result of the inbreed. One biography described poor Charles as having an “an enormous misshapen head” and a huge tongue. He also had a jaw that “stood so much out that his two rows of teeth could not meet,” which caused frequent drooling, an inability to chew, and extreme difficulty speaking. Others said the king suffered from intestinal upsets, convulsions, premature ejaculation, and impotence.
The dynasty sure was gone but its name still lives among dental professionals who called the prognathism condition of Charles “Habsburg jaw” in respect to the weak, drooling, big-headed king.
King Tut and his fragility
Among ancient Egyptians, King Tut is possibly the most famous of all. In 1922, his solid gold tomb was found complete with around 2,000 treasures inside, which included jewelry chests, weapons, and a royal throne decorated with silver and stones. Having all these possessions, anyone would have thought that the Egyptian king was young, strong and handsome. But recent research has shown that Tut was frail, weakened by multiple malarial infections, and so disabled he needed a cane to walk.
His malarial infections are partly to blame for his frailty. DNA testing revealed that Tut’s parents were brother and sister. That was probably why he suffered from congenital defects such as a clubfoot and cleft palate as well as a degenerative bone condition known as Kohler’s disease. Tut also practiced incest. He didn’t leave any living heirs, probably because he and his sibling wife were unable to bear children without fatal congenital disorders. Also found within his tomb were the mummified corpses of two fetuses, who are believed to be Tut’s daughters.
Strategies against incest
Mother Nature has her own ways of keeping people away from getting into sexual relationship with their close relation. Evolutionary scientists say that when a child sees their mother caring for another baby, it doesn’t make them sexually attracted to them. Similar with younger sibling with same set of parents. That is why; children from adopted parents who get into sexual relationship are still considered taboo even though they share different genes.
Females are more into genetic fitness of their offspring believe scientists that is why women are reluctant of incest. A 1994 study shows that women can actually smell the best genes that can father their offspring. The study often called ‘Smelly t-shirt’ test allowed women to smell the t-shirt worn by random men to rate it for intensity, pleasantness and sexiness. After analyzing the DNA of the women, they found out that those women preferred men who were genetically different from them.
There was a recent study that showed that partners who were genetically similar had lower sexual satisfaction. Women with similar genes mating partners cheated on their husbands more. It shows that not just determine the choice of your partner but overall satisfaction as well.
Incest cult in Australia
One of the worst cases of child abuse was revealed in the court cases of Australia in 2013.It was one of the worst cases of multi-generational incest known to the world. The ‘Colt’ family, whose surname was a pseudonym appointed by the court was, found living in rural New South Wales through an anonymous tip that their children were not going to school.
When arriving to the place, the authorities discovered that about 40 people were living in filth inside two caravans, two sheds, and several tents. The compound they were living in had no sewage system, running water, toilets, showers, or baths. There were children too among the people living who were dirty and shy. Out if them, only a few of them were able to speak intelligibly, and almost all of them had fungal infections on their feet.
Except for 5 year old, genetic tests later discovered that all of the children were products of incest. It was believed to have begun as many as 40 years ago. The children’s genes were traced to just one set of grandparents, who were brother and sister. Eight of the children’s parents were brother and sister, mother and son, or father and daughter, while the remaining six children were born from parents who were aunt and nephew, uncle and niece, half-siblings, or grandparents and grandchild. The children were also involved in sexual activity with each other from a very young age.
Most suffered from serious health problems like malnourishment, speech and hearing difficulties, an inability to read or write, and urgent dental problems. One 15-year-old boy had walking difficulties and severe psoriasis. His speech was barely intelligible, he regularly soiled his bed, and he was learning at a kindergartner’s level. Two other 15-year-old boys who suffered from similar disabilities were found to have been completely neglected when it came to personal and dental hygiene. A 14-year-old girl who was underweight and unable to use toilet paper or a comb suffered from severe speech and sight difficulties. She was also unable to read or write, though she was perfectly capable of threatening to cut off a caseworker’s fingers. The remainder of the children suffered from similar problems.
In total, 12 children were removed from their parents’ custody and either placed in foster homes or treatment programs to address their sexual and psychological trauma. In 2013, the mothers of the children had hired lawyers to fight for custody, while one of the mothers is due to face charges in court for the removal of a child from care and using a child for a crime. More charges are expected to be laid in the future.
Genetic Sexual Attraction
The idea of falling in love with a close relative is not the most pleasing idea for most of us but up to 50% people who reunite with their family post separation after birth get obsessive feelings for a family member. The emotions are result to a condition called Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA). It has become so common that post-adoption agencies warn their clients about it and provide specific training to their counselors to treat it.
But not much is known about GSA because incest is still a taboo and most people don’t revela that they are attracted to their relative, not have there been any research regarding the topic. But it doesn’t mean that all attraction lead to sex, it might also be the want to touch the log lost relative. But when it does result in sexual relationship, it’s usually between reunited brothers and sisters. One psychiatrist, who conducted one of the only known studies on the condition, says that there is a difference between traditional incest and GSA. GSA may be doing incest but they also avoid the idea of getting into sexual relationship with family member they grew up with.
According to Freud, we’re all suppressing incestuous urges. Recent studies suggest that the good doctor may have been at least somewhat right. Researchers in 2010 found that people tended to partner with those who resembled their opposite sex parent. Specifically, women were attracted to men whose features resembled the central portions of their father’s faces, while men were attracted to women who shared similarities with the lower parts of their mother’s faces. An earlier study also found that men and women, respectively, choose for partners who had the same eye and hair color of their opposite sex parent, while yet another study found that children of older parents gravitated toward older partners.
The theory is that we are “imprinted” from a young age to seek out the familiar by mating with people who resemble those who raised us. According to psychologists, you tend to believe the face that is similar to yours and find it more trustworthy and cooperative. One Scottish study found that women were most attracted to men who were essentially masculine versions of themselves. Psychologists believe that this is because overt masculinity can sometimes make women cautious, and familiar facial features may help to build trust.
Looks like we’re all related
In 1987,the mitochondrial DNA of 147 people of different races were studied by geneticists and they discovered that the DNA of all living people fall within one of two human lineages. One of these lineages came wholly from Africa, while the other contains traces of all other races.