Larry Jankens's picture

    Inbreeding is Good?

    I was always under the impression that inbreeding was a bad idea. Not only is it creepy, but a diverse gene pool is desirable – at least that’s what I thought.  Until I read about the Italian town of Stoccareddo.  Just as a narrowed gene pool can increase the probability of a bad trait becoming overly prevalent, it can also do so for a good trait.

    The Italian town of Stoccareddo, where 380 of the town’s 400 residents have the same surname Bau (bow-ˈooh), is an example of the positive effect of inbreeding. It feels creepy to type the phrase “positive effect of inbreeding.” I kind of feel dirty for typing that.

    Anyway, while high blood pressure affects about 33% of Italian men only 6.5% of Staccareddo men suffer from the ailment (while they all have the same diet). Also there has never been a single case of genetic disease to be found among the Baus. Who knew doing your cousin was good?

    The Baus of Stoccareddo only "do" their second cousins, ‘cause doing your first cousin is gross and wrong. I’m glad to see they can show some restraint. I'm no geneticist, so I'm not sure of the exact risks of getting-in-on with a relative, but it's one of those things that it is probably a good idea to avoid in general - like the practice of bungee jumping without first measuring the length of the bungee cord, sure you might not hit the ground, but should you take the chance?  

    Perhaps the most disturbing thing I found in my research is that the town adage is “No one knows a Bau, like a Bau.” Gross, I think they mean, like, biblically.

    Regardless of the Bau's success with inbreeding, I think I am still against it.  Call me old fashioned, but I think copulating with someone remotely related to you is wrong and gross.  Even if there are some rare instances in which making your gene pool more shallow can be beneficial, should we really risk it?  Look at the royal families!

    Kids are a big enough pain in the @ss without being horribly deformed or freakish.  Granted there is an off chance inbreeding will be beneficial, but how many superheros in comic books have a backstory of their parents being siblings and their shallow gene pool happened to produce a person with super powers?  Wait a minute, I think I figured out how Aquaman came about...


    At a population size of 400, they're under the suggested minimum population size of 500 for long-term avoidance of inbreeding effects. However, since 50 is the short-term minimum population size, they might be good for a little while longer… (This is known as the 50/500 rule.)

    As for intermediate time (with a better definition), John Moore suggested that a population size of about 160 would be sufficient for about 10 generations.

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