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Niall of the Nine Hostages - a busy man

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Irish scientists have discovered that three million men worldwide share a common ancestor - allegedly a fifth century Irish warlord rather splendidly called Niall of the Nine Hostages.

The revelation, Reuters reports, comes after a team from Trinity College Dublin tested the Y chromosome in 800 males across Ireland. The results showed that up to one in twelve Irish men has the same Y chromosome, with the highest concentration being in northwest Ireland, where an impressive one in five males boasts the same chromosome.

Having pinned down the genetic material, the team then "consulted with genealogical experts who provided them with a contemporary list of people with surnames that are genealogically linked to the last known relative of the 'Ui Neill' dynasty, which literally means descendants of Niall".

Project supervisor, Dan Bradley, explained: "The frequency (of the Y chromosome) was significantly higher in that genealogical group than any other group we tested."

As further proof, "scientists used special techniques to age the Y chromosome, according to how many mutations had occurred in the genetic material over time". They found the number of mutations tallied with "chromosomes that would date back to the last known living relative of Niall".

Since Niall of the Nine Hostages legendarily had twelve kids, he is indeed in the frame for taking the title of "Ireland's busiest dad". Some, however, doubt the bloke even existed, so there is a certain amount of supposition attached to the team's claim.

Nonetheless, someone was putting it about back in fifth century Ireland; much like the prodigious Giocangga from whom 1.5m modern-day Chinese are descended. ®

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