MadSci Network: Genetics

Re: Is large human ear size a recessive gene?

Date: Tue Mar 16 17:20:52 1999
Posted By: John Franklin Rawls, graduate student, Developmental Biology, Washington University
Area of science: Genetics
ID: 912637021.Ge

To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a study of what might 
cause especially large ears.  In my own experience, I have never noticed 
that people (presumably you mean Americans) several decades ago had any 
significant difference in ear size from the present day average.  

If your observation is correct, it is unlikely that the difference is due 
to genetic variation.  When such morphological traits change through 
genetic alteration, it takes a very long time for this variation to appear 
- certainly longer than 40 years or one generation!  Such traits are likely 
controlled by more that one gene, so multiple genes would have to be 
affected in order for such morphological change to occur.  Additionally, 
the gene pool that you see in the pages of your parents' yearbooks is 
largely the same gene pool you see in your yearbooks, with just a single 
generation's genetic change separating the two.  If your observation is 
correct, it would be more likely due to environmental changes, which 
include a bewildering array of possibilities.  I might point out that your 
observation may not be due to any genetic or drastic environmental 
fluxuations, rather it may be due to a different kind of variation - 
different styles of haircuts yield different degrees of ear exposure.  It 
might just be that haircuts 40 years ago were much shorter on average, 
making ears look larger when compared with the more concealing coiffures of 
contemporary culture.

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