News

If your friends feel like family, there’s a good reason for it

If your friends feel like family, there’s a good reason for it

FRIENDSHIP:A study published on Monday found that people are apt to pick friends who are genetically similar to themselves - so much so that friends tend to be as alike at the genetic level as a person's fourth cousin. Photo: clipart.com

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The truism that friends are the family you choose may be more accurate than you might suppose.

A study published on Monday found that people are apt to pick friends who are genetically similar to themselves – so much so that friends tend to be as alike at the genetic level as a person’s fourth cousin.

The findings were based on an examination of about 1.5 million markers of genetic variations in a group of nearly 2,000 people who had taken part in a long-running health study based in Massachusetts. The researchers compared people identified as friends to those who were not.

The study showed people were most similar to their friends in olfactory genes, which involve the sense of smell, and were least similar in relation to immune system genes.

“Olfactory genes have a straightforward explanation: People who like the same smells tend to be drawn to similar environments, where they meet others with the same tendencies,” said one of the researchers, James Fowler, a professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego.

The study, published in the scientific journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” follows research released in May that found that people tended to choose spouses who have similar DNA.

Fowler said the new findings made it clear that people have more DNA in common with those who are selected as friends than with strangers in the same population. Fourth cousins are people who have great-great-great grandparents in common.

Because the study population was largely homogeneous, mostly whites of European background, the findings “are less likely to be driven by the simple explanation that people of similar ancestry befriend one another,” Fowler said.

Fellow researcher Nicholas Christakis, a Yale University professor of sociology, evolutionary biology and medicine, said the mechanism used by people to choose friends with similar genetics remained a mystery.

“It could involve the workings of a postulated ‘kin detection system’ in humans,” Christakis said. “Our fates depend not only on our own genes, but also on the genes of others around us, and in particular our friends.”

Christakis said he was interested in finding out why people have friends in the first place.

“The making of friends is exceedingly rare in the animal kingdom,” Christakis added. “Certain other primates, elephants and whales are the only other mammals who do this, and this alone aroused our curiosity.”

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Recent Headlines

in National

Bet you didn’t know: Fun facts about the Fourth

13-overlay

Even the most patriotic among us can learn something from these little-known facts about Independence Day.

in Local Sports

Post 7 sweeps first two games at 4th of July tournament

Fresh
bellingham post 7 baseball logo 1

Bellingham has a double-header again on Friday, facing the Northeast 49ers at 4:00 p.m. and the Spokane Northstars at 6:30 p.m at Rogers High School in Spokane.

in Sports

AP Source: Pacers give Monta Ellis 4 years, $44 million

Fresh
Dallas Mavericks point guard Monta Ellis warms up in front of an advertisement paid for by The Indiana Economic Development Corp. before an NBA preseason basketball game in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. The IEDC has signed a deal with the Pacers for sponsoring the basketball court inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

A person with direct knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that Ellis has agreed to terms with the Pacers on a four-year deal worth $44 million. The deal includes a player option for the final year.

in Sports

Rangers’ Martin St. Louis announces retirement

Fresh
In this March 4, 2015, file photo, New York Rangers right wing Martin St. Louis (26) shoots against the Detroit Red Wings in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit. Rangers forward Martin St. Louis is retiring after 16 NHL seasons, seven All Star selections and one Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. St. Louis made the announcement Thursday, July 2, 2015, roughly a month after helping the Rangers reach the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost to the Lightning in seven games. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

The 40-year-old St. Louis was uncertain whether he would return for another season after the Rangers were eliminated, but it was clear that New York was not going to bring him back.

in Local Sports

Mariners recall Chris Taylor from AAA Tacoma

Fresh
FILE - In this Saturday, June 6, 2015, file photo, Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano, right, walks on the field after he grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Mariners' Willie Bloomquist (8) was left on base on the play. Cano isn't supposed to hear boos at home. It wasn't part of the deal when he signed for $240 million and 10 years in Seattle. But with the underperforming Mariners having the second-worst record in the American League, Cano's struggles have become the focus for the floundering franchise.

Utility infielder/outfielder Willie Bloomquist designated for assignment