Stop and Smell the Flowers

flowers 1

Some days DNA is just such fun.  My cousin, Marja, Facebooked me and suggested that I check and see if I carried the Neanderthal SNP for heightened smell.  Now, being a DNA junkie, of course, I had to do just that.

It turns out that our DNA location Rs6591536, if coded with G, increases our odor sensitivity – a characteristic shared by our Neanderthal cousins.

I would certainly think that heightened smell would enhance chances of survival.  Although, in contemporary society, I’m not sure heightened smell is that much of a blessing.  Floral is fine, some others odors aren’t and heightened sensitivity to smell knows no boundaries.  To me, some smells are simply overwhelming – like a candle or potpourri shop, or someone who took a bath in perfume, for example.  On the other hand, there is just nothing that compares to lavender.

To find out, I checked my raw data files.  In fact, I checked both mine and my mother’s raw data files.  Let’s take a look.

Flowers dna

This shows that Mom carried nucleotides AA and I carry AG.  G provides me with the enhanced odor sensitivity.  Clearly, Mom didn’t have a G to give me, so this tells me that I received this trait from my father, not my mother.  So something I share with my Dad.

Hmmm, now that I think of it, the flowers on my desk have passed their prime….I can tell by the way they smell!

Marja is preparing a presentation related to Neanderthal DNA.  I love this type of exploratory science.  I hope that she will present her findings in November at the Genetic Genealogy Conference in Houston.  It’s fun getting to know yourself, your parents, and your Neanderthal cousins.

Curious about how much and which specific DNA locations you might carry from our Neanderthal ancestors?  You’re in luck, courtesy of Marja and SNPedia….here’s a list.

flowers 2



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38 thoughts on “Stop and Smell the Flowers

  1. Very cool! I’m AG too 🙂 And I do have a heightened sense of smell, which can be very useful and very annoying at times.
    23andme has me as 3.4% Neanderthal, which is in the 99th percentile and higher than anyone else I share genomes with. My mom is at 3.1% so my dad must be the real deal.

  2. This is fascinating, Roberta. I had to try it too. I compared my raw data to all the 42 locations listed on the SNPedia Neanderthal page, and of the 42 listed, I got:

    4 that matched the given pair exactly
    14 that matched 1 or the given pair
    3 that did not match either given letter
    1 with “–” in the location rather than 2 letters
    20 that the location was not in my raw file

    Interesting… of all the one letter matches, they were all on the first letter. Does that mean I got those all from one parent? (Neither parent is alive, so unable to test them)
    Does the location that shows “–” in my file mean an unreadable location?
    Do the 20 missing locations in my data file mean FTDNA did not test those locations?
    I have no clue as to whether the above results mean I have more or less than average Neanderthal traits.

    Thanks for another great article!

    • I just noticed the Rs6591536 location for smell is not listed in the 42 on the SNPedia Neanderthal page. (?) When I checked it, I found like you, I also have “AG”

    • – means a no call so that location didn’t read for some reason. If the locations are missing, the vendor doesn’t test them. Your data is not phased (matched or sorted by one of your parents), so the letter order makes no difference.

      • You said:
        “Your data is not phased (matched or sorted by one of your parents), so the letter order makes no difference.”
        Okay, thanks… that’s good to know, but…
        On the SNPedia Neanderthal page (after I read it more closely) it makes it sound like maybe the second letter of the given sequence, (of the 42 listed traits) if matched, means you have more Neanderthal traits… than if you match the 1st letter. Or am I reading that wrong?

        • You are looking for the second value they have listed in either position in your results. They have listed, in order, the ancestral (African) value and then the Neanderthal value. Your values are random.

      • You said:

        “You are looking for the second value they have listed in either position in your results. They have listed, in order, the ancestral (African) value and then the Neanderthal value. Your values are random.”

        That clears it up. You’re the best! Thanks!

  3. This doesn’t seem, to help me check it but I will keep it in mind. I do have a strong odor sensitivity and get migraines if many odors are too pronounced. I wonder if that is the modern sequela of having increased odor sensitivity since many migraneurs are triggered by odors.

  4. I too have a tendency to get migraines. I know I’m allergic to anything pine. I lived in a few states where pine trees flourished and was constantly on some firm or another meds for them the whole time, from antihistamines to meds for migraines. If I come in contact with some strong odors my head starts to pound.

  5. This is why I love the whole genetic research thing. Now think, If all migraine sufferers were AG on chr 11, rs6591536, and could inhale a nasal spray that could eliminate odors (temporarily) they would cease to have migraines! At least it would be a great research study! How do we suggest to 23andme to conduct such a study? Anyone know?

  6. I also noticed that the Rs6591536 location is not in the list on the SNPedia page. Did you find it somewhere else?
    I also have some locations that did not match either letter. Can you tell us what that means?

    • Marja would have to answer that. She was doing the research. Also, I would presume that other values are non-Neanderthal, based on Svante Paabo’s book that I just read.

      • Thanks for your response. I realized that the link in your article to “heightened smell” answered the question about Rs6591536. I also have a Neanderthal value.
        I am not sure what you meant about the other values. I guess that I will have to read Svante Paabo’s book.
        Very stimulating article. Thanks for posting it.

  7. I must also have that gene. I know the feeling of overwhelming debts like those in a candle shop. 🙂

  8. My husband is a G. He and his brothers have a very strong sense of smell. This is for good and objectionable odors. He swars his younger brother could smell the laundry- clean socks (1930s) sort the socks for 4 brothers & dad

  9. Wonderful post Roberta! I am a GG and yes I know I have a very heightened sense of smell

    Those of you having trouble finding where to find this SNP in your 23andme data. click browse raw data under your name at the top right then put Rs6591536 into the second box where it asks for “a SNP:” and click go. I did a blog post for looking up Y SNPs that explains this with a picture

    However the commenting system won’t let me put a link here so google “kitty cooper blog Y SNP” if you want to see that picture (3rd one down)

    • You have to have taken the Family Finder test. Under the Family Finder tab, on your personal page, “Download Raw Data” is one of your options, if you have taken that test.

  10. Roberta, can an RSID have more than one position? I administer my grandchildren’s FTDNA. Their RSID rs2273525 Chromosome 20 shows position as 18522933, but their grandmother shows a different position, 18470933, for the same RSID.

  11. Margaret asked the question about what percentage of the population has AG. This is answered in the SNPedia link
    At the bottom right is a graph of the percentages for different populations. The first row is a European population. Click on the question mark for a fuller explanation.
    On another note, I and other people had found that for some of the Neanderthal genes we had neither of the two values given for those genes. For example for rs1330692 my raw results from AncestryDNA say that I have TT. However if I look at my results with Promethease it says that I have AA, which fits with SNPedia. Something strange is going on.

    • Thanks for the link, it looks like its not so rare after all, of you combine th AG with GG, it’s about half of the population

      • Yes but it depends on the population. For the CEU European population, about 40% is AA, about 40% is AG, and about 20% is GG. So not so rare.

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