Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Titanic Error

A Titanic victim identified five years ago as 13-month-old Eino Panula has been reidentified as 19-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin.

"We were under pressure at the time by the U.S. television team doing the History Channel documentary to identify the child, and based on the evidence we had at the time, we did so," [researcher Alan] Ruffman said.

What the scientists didn't fully appreciate at the time is that there are two mitochondrial DNA molecules - HVS1 and HVS2. In 2002, they thought they needed to test only one of them, the HVS1.
Subsequent tests on HVS2 showed a match with a descendant of Sidney's maternal line, but not with Eino's relatives.
Additional evidence for the new identification also resurfaced: a pair of shoes taken from the body of the unknown child in 1912 by a souvenir hunter and kept by his family for almost 90 years were found to be too big for a 13-month-old like Panula. [Link]
Update: Megan Smolenyak calls this mistake An Avoidable DNA Error.

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