Crossover and Segment Formation

A Segment-ology TIDBIT…

Crossovers and segments are formed by random DNA biology.  They are formed at conception in each of our ancestors and in ourselves. They are at fixed, permanent locations in each of us. They are not affected by family size, geography, wealth, status, intelligence, etc. For each of us, they are a fixed structure of our chromosomes – like a picture or jigsaw puzzle – which is different for each person.


22A Segment-ology: Crossover and Segment Formation TIDBIT by Jim Bartlett 20170101

6 thoughts on “Crossover and Segment Formation

    • lkessler,
      This is a two part question. (1) All the companies, generally, use the same base addresses for the same SNP. This makes the results from different companies compatible, even if they each have a different mix of SNPs. (2) No company knows the specific SNP of a crossover. They don’t even try. They look for long strings of matching SNPs between you and a Match, and report that. (This shared segment may or may not start or end on a crossover, even if the data were precise). Since there are only 4 values involved (A, C, G and T), and because you have these values on two chromosomes (and so does your Match), the matching algorithm can actually run way past the actual end of an ancestral segment and still find matching SNPs (at 23andMe and GEDmatch). At FTDNA, they use blocks of 100 SNPs – you will often see the length of a shared segment with the number of SNPs ending in 00. In this case the algorithm wants to see whole blocks match, and so the shared segment is often reported as shorter than it really is. This all results in fuzzy data! But it is all still in the ballpark. It still results in a hit on our broad TG “target”. It’s OK for genealogy. If you are looking for a specific gene near the end of a TG, you really need to be using phased data. Otherwise, for genealogy, we are “good to go.” Jim


  1. They are not formed at conception. They are already fixed in sperm and egg before conception. They are formed during gametogenesis.


    • Andrew, Point taken, thanks! In one sense many different combinations of crossovers and segments are formed before conception; but it is only at conception that you get a specific sperm and egg combination.


      • True, the specific combination is only determined by which egg and sperm unite. But if you want to understand the details, like inihibition whcih prevents crossovers being very close together, then you need to know about gametogenesis.


      • Andrew, I appreciate your input. I’m an old genealogist – my grandmother got me hooked in 1974. And I’m an Professional Engineer – now retired after 50 years of work. I just finished a free online (EdX) course (DNA: The Secret of Life) from MIT by Prof. Eric Lander – he was great, and I really had to concentrate to keep up. My wife has a PhD in microbiology, and I wanted to really get grounded. But for this blog, my focus is on genealogy – my desire is to keep it at a level that most genealogists (and I) can understand. For that reason, I try to stay away from, as much as I can, the details, and the language that goes with it. Most genealogists want to know how the DNA works to help them in their hobby. So the takeaway on this post was that the segments from our ancestors are fixed. We use the DNA to get the locations roughly right and then use genealogy to link the segments with the correct ancestors. And for the readers, we can point out that in one generation, the crossovers will not be close to each other. However, in a different generation a new crossover can occur very close to an existing one, giving the appearance of close crossovers. In other words, it’s possible to have some fairly small TGs in our chromosome map. Since we don’t usually work with very small shared segments, we probably won’t “see” these small TGs – they may appear as small gaps between larger TGs.

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