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Scientists: Ethnicity may not exist, genetically speaking

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There are more genetic differences within ethnic groups than between them, indicating that distinct 'ethnic groups' exist in the mind more than the body, according to new research.

There are more genetic differences within ethnic groups than between them, indicating that distinct 'ethnic groups' exist in the mind more than the body, according to new research.

Writing in the journal BMC Genetics, researchers studying central Asian ethnic groups found that the groups are more defined by society than ancestry.

An international team of researchers led by Evelyne Heyer of the Musée de l'Homme in Paris, France studied mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome data from several populations of two major language ethnic groups of Central Asia: the Turkic and Indo-Iranian groups.

Results concluded that, for at least two of the Turkic groups in Central Asia, "ethnicity is a constructed social system maintaining genetic boundaries with other groups, rather than being the outcome of common genetic ancestry."

Fascinatingly, there was no common ancestry in a specific ethnic group, according to the research.

If common among other ethnic groups, the finding could turn the way humans think about each other on its head.

So what determines "ethnicity," really? According to the research, cultural, linguistic, economic, religious and political walls put up by humans themselves. [via ScienceDaily]

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Andrew Nusca

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Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure