boston.com your connection to The Boston Globe

Geneticists discover emperor, accountant linked

MIAMI -- A British research firm recently combed 25,000 DNA samples searching for a modern descendant of Genghis Khan from outside the Mongolian warlord's ancient empire.

They found one: a University of Miami accounting professor.

Tom Robinson, a 48-year-old Palmetto Bay, Fla., resident, has taken the odd news with amiable modesty, even though the Mongolian ambassador to the United States plans to invite him as an honored guest to his Washington embassy.

They're an unlikely pair, the emperor and the accountant. Genghis was known as the type of guy who would conquer villages across two continents, murder entire tribes, and take thousands of female partners.

Robinson is an academic who leads a quiet life with his wife of 25 years. ``I think I do have a certain number of administrative skills," Robinson said, noting he was once president of a local financial analyst society. ``I haven't done any conquering, per se."

Despite their disparate lifestyles, the link is backed by strong genetic evidence, according to Bryan Sykes, an Oxford University geneticist who conducted the research for his private company, Oxford Ancestors. Robinson's Y chromosome bears seven of nine genetic markers identical to the Genghis genetic signature -- remarkably close considering the two men lived more than 700 years apart, Sykes said.

The Genghis genetic mark was discovered in 2003 by a group of 23 international geneticists who found that 8 percent of all males in large parts of Asia carry startlingly similar genetic markers. Those markers are historically traceable to areas ruled by Genghis and his sons.

Women can learn if they are descended from Genghis only through male relatives because only men have a Y chromosome.

No one has tested Genghis's actual DNA because his tomb has never been found. Though Genghis is believed to have 16 million Asian descendants, Robinson is the first Caucasian linked to the 13th-century marauder, Sykes said. How those genes made it to Robinson's ancestral home near the Scottish border remains a mystery.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES
 
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives