MadSci Network: Genetics

Re: Is the ability to form the 'Vulcan Salute' genetic?

Date: Wed Aug 12 16:42:44 2009
Posted By: John J Peloquin, Fellow
Area of science: Genetics
ID: 1249504992.Ge

Well, that's a good question. 

Most traits that are discussed in High School have a genetic basis that's
quite well explained by one gene with influence on the trait. In reality
few if any complex phenotypes have ONLY one gene involved in their
expression. BUT, often one or a few genes can suffice to explain most or
almost all of a phenotype and in the case of the simple examples used in
high school, these traits can be considered Mendelian traits- that is
traits that are largely determined by one genetic locus and a couple to a
few alleles. The genes used in GM crops to confer insect and herbicide
resistance are Mendelian because almost all the variability is explained by
the presence or absence of the transgene. Most genes aren't like that,
especially in people. Examples of traits that are nearly Mendelian in
humans are tongue rolling (similar to the Vulcan thing), tasting certain
chemicals, and eye color- brown is dominant to blue, so theoretically, blue
eyed parents can't produce a brown eyed child. Again, it's not that simple
because in reality, for example, blue eyed parents for a variety of unusual
reasons rarely CAN produce brown eyed children. And there are green eyed
people etc. 

So, if you are asking if the ability to make that Vulcan sign (the Star
Trek gesture was actually derived by Leonard Nimoy from gestures made
during Jewish ceremonies) is genetic, it is, but though one locus may be
most responsible for the phenotype, there may be more than one locus and
possibly multiple alleles at each locus involved.

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