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Doppelgängers: People With Similar Faces Likely Share DNA

Your doppelgänger is out there, and you’re probably (very distant) cousins.

It seems so obvious — people who look alike have to share some sort of DNA, right? Oddly enough, we tend to assume the opposite, actually: that the doppelgänger effect is more supernatural coincidence than blood relative.

Maybe we’re (subconsciously) fiercely protective of our family unit, or maybe we just never understood how many doppelgängers are actually out there…and how much they really do look alike. But social media has changed that notion, and it’s time to start accepting that we live in a world with more shared DNA than rare DNA.

Manel Esteller of the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain, recently co-authored a study in the Cell Reports journal that provides “rare insight into human likeness,” plus where that likeness begins and ends.

DNA analysis of people who look alike has revealed that their facial similarities are rooted in shared genetic variants between unrelated pairs. Photo via: François Brunelle

Learning about similarities between doppelgängers may help solve crimes one day

Canadian artist François Brunelle embarked on a similar study in 1999 when he set out to find and photograph pairs of doppelgängers from across the globe. Ironically, these 24-year-old portraits became central to Esteller’s current findings.

Esteller’s team recruited 32 of the participants from Brunelle’s project for their modern study. The findings were fascinating and conclusive: physical traits, such as height and weight, as well as some behavioral attributes, such as smoking habits and education, all correlated between look-alikes (in addition to just facial appearance).

“We provided a unique insight into the molecular characteristics that potentially influence the construction of the human face,” Esteller explained. “We suggest that these same determinants correlate with both physical and behavioral attributes that constitute human beings.”

Researchers said they hoped their findings would benefit biomedicine, forensics, and the study of evolution, among other fields.

“These results will have future implications in forensic medicine — reconstructing the criminal’s face from DNA — and in genetic diagnosis — the photo of the patient’s face will already give you clues as to which genome he or she has,” Esteller said.

Check out FamilyTree DNA to see if you have any doppelgängers out there, yourself.

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