18 November 2009

DNA and the death of Venice

The population of Venice, Italy is dwindling, and is now below 60,000. A mock funeral for the city was also the impetus for a DNA project on the origins of Venetian families.

One reason is the high cost of living in the city, and tourism is also taking the blame as food and housing costs rise and people move to the mainland. The number of residents has dropped by 66% since the 1950s.

Some residents say that a house in Venice costs twice as much as a similar one elsewhere.

A recent event highlighted the situation with a mock funeral. Activists claim Venice is a ghost town, populated only by tourists, although the city calls the its death premature.

A city demographer said the low number ignores 120,000 people on Murano and Lido Beach islands, while admitting the population had decreased in the central historic section of Venice.

On a brighter note, which should add to DNA databases, the event was used to collect DNA samples from Venetians to discover more about the origins of central and western European populations. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Massachusetts) scientists hope to take some 5,000 DNA swabs to learn more about the Venetians' origins.

Several sources covered the story, including BBC and AFP.

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