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February 25 2013

Genes mix across borders more easily than folk tales


Once upon a time there were two girls. One was kind and helpful and was rewarded with a box of gold. The other was mean and lazy and was rewarded with a box of snakes. You may know another version of this fairy tale though, because it changed as it spread across Europe. A new study of how it changed shows that people who came from different language groups or who lived a few hundred kilometres apart were more likely to have children with each other than to exchange their version of the story. Analysing folklore in this way, using techniques from genetic analysis, may give us new insights into how cultures evolve.

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