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Height genes influence choice of mate with similar height

"Using one partner's genes for height, we estimated the height of the chosen partner with 13 percent accuracy," researcher Albert Tenesa said.
By Brooks Hays   |   Jan. 19, 2016 at 2:29 PM

EDINBURGH, Scotland, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- You must be this tall to ride the roller coaster of love.

Some people chalk romance up to chance. Other say it's fate. Science suggests it may be more of the latter.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, determined that the same genes that influence a person's height also influence a person's choice of a mate.

Previous research has revealed the tendency of couples to pair up by height. Taller people tend to mate with and marry taller people, shorter people with shorter people. But the latest study, published in the journal Genome Biology, is the first to show genes -- not social factors -- are responsible for the correlation.

"We found that 89 percent of the genetic variation affecting individual preferences for height and one's own height are shared, indicating that there's an innate preference for partners of similar height," lead study author Albert Tenesa said in a press release.

In analyzing the genotypes of more than 13,000 heterosexual couples, researchers showed that a person's genes could be used to predict the height of the person's partner.

"Using one partner's genes for height, we estimated the height of the chosen partner with 13 percent accuracy," Tenesa said. "The similarity in height between partners is driven by the observed physical appearance of the partner, specifically their height, rather than influenced by the social or genetic structure of the population we live in."

Researchers say their findings are an important step in understanding the mechanisms that influence sexual attraction and thus genetic variation.

Understanding how genes predict mating habits, and influence genetic variation across a population, may help scientists better explain the distribution of other human traits like disease susceptibility.

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