With more samples of human genomes now available, researchers are able to find solutions to questions that just a few years ago they could only dream of answering. For example, how many new mutations—copying errors within both of each individual’s three billion-base-long human genome sets—occur each generation? And do more of them come from one parent or the other?

Prior measurements of the human intergenerational mutation rate, such as the 2010 Sciencefinding of 60 new mutations on average, did not distinguish which mutations came from which parent.1 Since sperm cells undergo many more cell divisions before maturing than egg cells, and since each division provides another opportunity for mutations to occur, the father should theoretically contribute more mutations to the children than the mother.

Using complete genome data from individuals in two families, a new study in Nature Geneticsalso counted 60 new mutations per generation, but it determined that the relative contributions from each parent varied between the families.2 These were “unexpected findings,” according to a Sanger Institute press release, which also stated, “Remarkably, in one family 92 per cent of the mutations derived from the father, whereas in the other family only 36 per cent were from the father.”3….

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