Ted Cruz got more than he bargained for when he agreed to make public his genetic data from the popular genomics website 23 and Me.
The Texas senator had the tests done as a political stunt, hoping to burnish his science credentials ahead of the 2016 presidential race. However, the strategy backfired dramatically when the results revealed that Cruz’s DNA is 82 percent Neanderthal.
Many humans of European or Asian descent have some Neanderthal DNA as the result of interbreeding between the two species thousands of years ago. But the percentage usually ranges between 1 to 4 percent.
“It’s extraordinary,” says Howard Bohr, professor of genetics at Stanford. “I have no idea how this could possibly happen. The Neanderthals went extinct about 40,000 years ago, and only a few of their genes passed on into the human population.
“So on the one hand, it’s baffling. On the other hand, of course, this explains a lot about Ted Cruz. I’m beginning to understand his politics now.”
Geneticists from around the world are racing to study Cruz’s results, hoping to find clues to how such genes could have survived into the 21st century. The senator has so far refused to undergo further testing and is not cooperating with researchers.
Indeed, sources close to the situation say he is livid with the scientists who performed the initial tests, and with the political consultants who talked him into making his genome public.
“Scientists make bad,” Cruz told the Huffington Post. “Test no good. Test hurt Cruz. Cruz angry. Cruz very very angry.”
Cruz has served as the junior senator from Texas since he was first elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010. The Harvard-educated lawyer is known for his reactionary political views.