If your surname is Attenborough, chances are you share some DNA with the famous wildlife documentary presented.
Researchers examined the DNA of 1,600 unrelated men, including Sir David Attenborough. And they discovered that people with unusual surnames tended to share some of the same DNA.
The study found that up to 90% of British men with the surname Attenborough or Attenborrow shared a common ancestor with Sir David. This is due to a link between the Y chromosome and surnames.
The research looked at the DNA of men with 40 different surnames. Published in the journal Molecular Biology & Evolution, the study identified a clear link between Y chromosomes and surnames in people with unusual last names.
However, people with common surnames like Smith were no more likely to share an ancestor than any men chosen at random from the population.
Dr Turi King, a researcher from the University of Leicester, has been working on the project since 2008.
She said: “Attenboroughs essentially form one big family of distant relatives. The Y chromosome type was the same even across spelling variants, which confirms that the spellings of names were formalised only relatively recently.
“David was kind enough to take part in the research project many years ago and his surname was one of the ones that really stood out.”
As well as the surname Attenborough, researchers focused on the names Titmus, Dalgleish, Werret and Stribling.
Y chromosome is passed on down the paternal line
Dr King said: “In Britain, surnames are passed down from father to son. A piece of our DNA, the Y chromosome, is the one part of our genetic material that confers maleness and is passed, like surnames, from father to son.”
But many surnames, particularly the more usual ones, have more than one founder so the link is not as clear cut. There are also other factors which would prevent a genetic link including adoption, name changes and situations in which children take the surname of a man who is not their biological father.
DNA testing can establish whether you are genetically related to another person. The most commonly used tests are those to establish paternity, although they can also be used to establish other biological relationships.
AlphaBiolabs also has a Y chromosome test which can establish whether two men are paternally related in situations where the alleged father cannot be tested.
The Y chromosome is passed from father to son and only mutates once every 10,000 years. This means it can be tested and compared to find out whether two men come from the same paternal family line.