The mother of Clare’s boyfriend gave Clare an ancestry test kit for Christmas. For someone who does not know my daughter all that well, she picked a good gift. As a mixed race kid, Clare wanted to know the specifics of her bloodlines. Also, since neither Manyu nor I have ever submitted our own DNA samples, it was a chance for my wife and I to piggyback off our daughter’s results.

As expected, Clare was almost exactly 50% Asian and 50% European. Her Asian side was over 90% Han, and Manyu was actually surprised that the percentage wasn’t higher. If I remember right, there was a little Mongol and Japanese mixed in. On the European side, she was predominantly Western European and Balkan. This I already knew because one of my sisters had shown me the results of her own ancestry test taken a few years earlier. The Balkan part had surprised my side of the family, and it resulted in all of us taking a trip to Croatia and Slovenia. 

When Clare was explaining her genetic makeup to Manyu and me, she concluded by saying, “And Dad, I am more Neanderthal than 90% of the people in the world. All of it comes from you.”

I guess this makes me off-the-charts Neanderthal. Out of curiosity, I googled the characteristics of modern day homo sapiens with a lot of Neanderthal in them. I learned that we tend to have blue eyes, type O blood, and a propensity for going bald. On those particular traits, I am three for three. 

We also are more likely than the general population to have a fear of public speaking. I doubt this particular trait was a factor in the Neanderthals’ demise. Could it, however, indicate a shy and gentle nature? And could that, in turn, have made them susceptible to a more aggressive hominid, one that, to this day, does not like to share its food with other species?*

* My suggestion that homo sapiens drove Neanderthals to extinction was an uninformed, intentionally flippant comment on our species’ aggressive nature.  It also turns out to be true. Anthropologists believe the extinction of Neanderthals was due to a combination of three things – overspecialization during a period of climate change (i.e., the end of the Ice Age), competition with homo sapiens for food, and an inability to fight off human-borne diseases. 

Steven Simpson