Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Trust DNA, Not Dentists

Megan consulted with her collaborator Ann Turner about the misidentification of Titanic victim Sidney Leslie Goodwin. Turner says this was not a failure of genetic science but of dentistry. Dentists who examined the teeth of the unknown child ("body number 4") underestimated their age by a few months, thus ruling out their rightful owner. These passages are from the 2004 Journal of the Canadian Dental Association article she cites:

Because of the stage of development of their crowns, their lack of root development and lack of wear, the teeth were tentatively estimated as coming from a child of 9 to 15 months of age
When the mtDNA results came in from the direct maternal descendants of the Goodwin and the Panula children, both had the same mtDNA. As it turned out, their mtDNA is found in over 15% of indigenous Caucasians of northern Europe, indicating that somewhere in the past 2,000 years, the 2 families had a common maternal antecedent. Because of the early stage of dental development of body number 4, however, the Finnish child (13-month-old Eino Viljam Panula) was finally identified as the ‘Unknown Child’. [Link (pdf)]

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