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  Quote opuslola Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Anthropology news updates
    Posted: 16-Dec-2013 at 23:38
TADR, thanks for the great posts! Of course it has nothing to do with History, since no one was there to write it down. LOL
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Dec-2013 at 23:21

Neanderthal Genome Shows Early Human Interbreeding, Inbreeding

Family tree of the four groups of early humans living in Eurasia 50,000 years ago and the lingering genetic heritage due to interbreeding.

The most complete sequence to date of the Neanderthal genome, using DNA extracted from a woman's toe bone that dates back 50,000 years, reveals a long history of interbreeding among at least four different types of early humans living in Europe and Asia at that time, according to University of California, Berkeley, scientists.

Population geneticist Montgomery Slatkin, graduate student Fernando Racimo and post-doctoral student Flora Jay were part of an international team of anthropologists and geneticists who generated a high-quality sequence of the Neanderthal genome and compared it with the genomes of modern humans and a recently recognized group of early humans called Denisovans.

The comparison shows that Neanderthals and Denisovans are very closely related, and that their common ancestor split off from the ancestors of modern humans about 400,000 years ago. Neanderthals and Denisovans split about 300,000 years ago.

Though Denisovans and Neanderthals eventually died out, they left behind bits of their genetic heritage because they occasionally interbred with modern humans. The research team estimates that between 1.5 and 2.1 percent of the genomes of modern non-Africans can be traced to Neanthertals.

Denisovans also left genetic traces in modern humans, though only in some Oceanic and Asian populations. The genomes of Australian aborigines, New Guineans and some Pacific Islanders are about 6 percent Denisovan genes, according to earlier studies. The new analysis finds that the genomes of Han Chinese and other mainland Asian populations, as well as of native Americans, contain about 0.2 percent Denisovan genes.

The genome comparisons also show that Denisovans interbred with a mysterious fourth group of early humans also living in Eurasia at the time. That group had split from the others more than a million years ago, and may have been the group of human ancestors known as Homo erectus, which fossils show was living in Europe and Asia a million or more years ago.

"The paper really shows that the history of humans and hominins during this period was very complicated," said Slatkin, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. "There was lot of interbreeding that we know about and probably other interbreeding we haven't yet discovered."

The genome analysis will be published in the Dec. 19 issue of the journal Nature. Slatkin, Racimo and Jay are members of a large team led by former UC Berkeley post-doc Svante Pääbo, who is now at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

In another analysis, Jay discovered that the Neanderthal woman whose toe bone provided the DNA was highly inbred. The woman's genome indicates that she was the daughter of a very closely related mother and father who either were half-siblings who shared the same mother, an uncle and niece or aunt and nephew, a grandparent and grandchild, or double first-cousins (the offspring of two siblings who married siblings).

Further analyses suggest that the population sizes of Neanderthals and Denisovans were small and that inbreeding may have been more common in Neanderthal groups than in modern populations.

As part of the new study, Racimo was able to identify at least 87 specific genes in modern humans that are significantly different from related genes in Neanderthals and Denisovans, and that may hold clues to the behavioral differences distinguishing us from early human populations that died out.

"There is no gene we can point to and say, 'This accounts for language or some other unique feature of modern humans,'" Slatkin said. "But from this list of genes, we will learn something about the changes that occurred on the human lineage, though those changes will probably be very subtle."

According to Pääbo, the list of genes "is a catalog of genetic features that sets all modern humans apart from all other organisms, living or extinct. I believe that in it hide some of the things that made the enormous expansion of human populations and human culture and technology in the last 100,000 years possible."

The Pääbo group last year produced a high-quality Denisovan genome based on DNA from a pinky finger bone discovered in 2008 in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Southern Siberia. That bone is from a young woman who lived about 40,000 years ago. The Neanderthal toe bone was found in the same cave in 2010, though in a deeper layer of sediment that is thought to be about 10,000-20,000 years older. The cave also contains modern human artifacts, meaning that at least three groups of early humans occupied the cave at different times. The Pääbo group developed new techniques to extract DNA from these old bones.

Slatkin noted that no one is sure how long the various now-extinct groups lasted, but that there is evidence that Neanderthals and modern humans coexisted in Europe and Asia for at least 30,000 years. Interbreeding was infrequent, though how infrequent is unclear given the genomic information available today.

"We don't know if interbreeding took place once, where a group of Neanderthals got mixed in with modern humans, and it didn't happen again, or whether groups lived side by side, and there was interbreeding over a prolonged period," he said.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131218133658.htm



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 18-Dec-2013 at 23:21
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Dec-2013 at 23:24

Sunlight Adaptation Region of Neanderthal Genome Found in Up to 65 Percent of Modern East Asian Population

With the Neanderthal genome now published, for the first time, scientists have a rich new resource of comparative evolution. For example, recently, scientists have shown that humans and Neanderthals once interbred, with the accumulation of elements of Neanderthal DNA found in up to 5 percent in modern humans.

Are there any advantages to the retention of Neanderthal DNA that favors modern humans? In a new article published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, authors Jin, et. al., present evidence for the accumulation of a Neanderthal DNA region found on chromosome 3 that contains 18 genes, with several related to UV-light adaptation, including the Hyal2 gene. Their results reveal this region was positively selected and enriched in East Asians, ranging from up to 49 percent in Japanese to 66 percent in Southern Chinese.

Interestingly, the authors note, the geographic distribution of the Neanderthal genomic region suggests that UV-light mutations were shown to be lost during the exodus of modern human from Africa, and reintroduced to Eurasians from Neanderthals. "Overall, it is still very controversial whether there is more Neanderthal DNA contributions to Asians than Europeans, as we have evidence to argue against this," said Lin. "Although in the case of the Hyal2 variant, it did indeed have a higher frequency in Asians."

From 45,000 years to 5,000 years before present, effective population sizes of the Neanderthal region increased at a steady rate. Notably, the growth rate of the effective population size increased at around 5,000 to 3,500 years before present, which suggests a population expansion event. This Asian-specific Neanderthal evolutionary event is also consistent with previous reports of higher levels of Neanderthal ancestry in East Asians than in Europeans.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131218100229.htm



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 18-Dec-2013 at 23:24
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jan-2014 at 23:41

'Ardi' Skull Reveals Links to Human Lineage

One of the most hotly debated issues in current human origins research focuses on how the 4.4 million-year-old African species Ardipithecus ramidus is related to the human lineage. "Ardi" was an unusual primate. Though it possessed a tiny brain and a grasping big toe used for clambering in the trees, it had small, humanlike canine teeth and an upper pelvis modified for bipedal walking on the ground.

Scientists disagree about where this mixture of features positionsArdipithecus ramidus on the tree of human and ape relationships. Was Ardi an ape with a few humanlike features retained from an ancestor near in time (between 6 and 8 million years ago, according to DNA evidence) to the split between the chimpanzee and human lines? Or was it a true relative of the human line that had yet to shed many signs of its remote tree-dwelling ancestry?

New research led by Arizona State University paleoanthropologist William Kimbel confirms Ardi's close evolutionary relationship to humans. Kimbel and his collaborators turned to the underside (or base) of a beautifully preserved partial cranium of Ardi. Their study revealed a pattern of similarity that links Ardi to Australopithecus and modern humans, but not to apes.

The research appears in the Jan. 6-10 online edition ofProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Kimbel is director of the ASU Institute of Human Origins, a research center of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Joining ASU's Kimbel as co-authors are Gen Suwa (University of Tokyo Museum), Berhane Asfaw (Rift Valley Research Service, Addis Ababa), Yoel Rak (Tel Aviv University) and Tim White (University of California at Berkeley).

White's field-research team has been recovering fossil remains ofArdipithecus ramidus in the Middle Awash research area, Ethiopia since the 1990s. The most recent study of the Ardi skull, led by Suwa, was published in Science in 2009, whose work (with the Middle Awash team) first revealed humanlike aspects of its base. Kimbel co-leads the team that recovered the earliest known Australopithecus skulls from the Hadar site, home of the "Lucy" skeleton, in Ethiopia.

"Given the very tiny size of the Ardi skull, the similarity of its cranial base to a human's is astonishing," says Kimbel.

The cranial base is a valuable resource for studying phylogenetic, or natural evolutionary relationships, because its anatomical complexity and association with the brain, posture and chewing system have provided numerous opportunities for adaptive evolution over time. The human cranial base, accordingly, differs profoundly from that of apes and other primates.

In humans, the structures marking the articulation of the spine with the skull are more forwardly located than in apes, where the base is shorter from front to back and the openings on each side for passage of blood vessels and nerves are more widely separated.

These shape differences affect the way the bones are arranged on the skull base, such that it is fairly easy to tell apart even isolated fragments of ape and human basicrania.

Ardi's cranial base shows the distinguishing features that separate humans and Australopithecus from the apes. Kimbel's earlier research (with collaborator Rak) had shown that these human peculiarities were present in the earliest knownAustralopithecus skulls by 3.4 million years ago.

The new work expands the catalogue of anatomical similarities linking humans, Australopithecus and Ardipithecus on the tree of life, and shows that the human cranial base pattern is at least a million years older than Lucy's species, A. afarensis.

Paleoanthropologists generally fall into one of two camps on the cause of evolutionary changes in the human cranial base. Was it the adoption of upright posture and bipedality that caused a shift in the poise of the head on the vertebral column? If so, does the humanlike cranial base of Ar. ramidus confirm postcranial evidence for partial bipedality in this species? Or, do the changes tell us about the shape of the brain (and of the base on which it sits), perhaps an early sign of brain reorganization in the human lineage? Both alternatives will need to be re-evaluated in light of the finding that Ardi does indeed appear to be more closely related to humans than to chimpanzees.

"The Ardi cranial base fills some important gaps in our understanding of human evolution above the neck," adds Kimbel. "But it also opens up a host of new questions . . . just as it should!"

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140106160041.htm



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 08-Jan-2014 at 23:42
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jan-2014 at 22:59

Two Million Years Ago, Human Relative 'Nutcracker Man' Lived On Tiger Nuts

An Oxford University study has concluded that our ancient ancestors who lived in East Africa between 2.4 million-1.4 million years ago mainly ate tiger nuts (grass bulbs) supplemented with the odd grasshopper and worm.

An Oxford University study has concluded that our ancient ancestors who lived in East Africa between 2.4 million-1.4 million years ago survived mainly on a diet of tiger nuts. Tiger nuts are edible grass bulbs still eaten in parts of the world today. The study published in the journal, PLOS ONE, also suggests that these early hominins may have sought additional nourishment from fruits and invertebrates, like worms and grasshoppers.

Study author Dr Gabriele Macho examined the diet ofParanthropus boisei, nicknamed "Nutcracker Man" because of his big flat molar teeth and powerful jaws, through studying modern-day baboons in Kenya. Her findings help to explain a puzzle that has vexed archaeologists for 50 years.

Scholars have debated why this early human relative had such strong jaws, indicating a diet of hard foods like nuts, yet their teeth seemed to be made for consuming soft foods. Damage to the tooth enamel also indicated they had come into contact with an abrasive substance. Previous research using stable isotope analyses suggests the diet of these homimins was largely composed of C4 plants like grasses and sedges. However, a debate has raged over whether such high-fibre foods could ever be of sufficiently high quality for a large-brained, medium-sized hominin.

Dr Macho's study finds that baboons today eat large quantities of C4 tiger nuts, and this food would have contained sufficiently high amounts of minerals, vitamins, and the fatty acids that would have been particularly important for the hominin brain. Her finding is grounded in existing data that details the diet of year-old baboons in Amboseli National Park in Kenya -- a similar environment to that once inhabited by Paranthropus boisei. Dr Macho's study is based on the assumption that baboons intuitively select food according to their needs. She concludes that the nutritional demands of a hominin would have been quite similar.

Dr Macho modified the findings of the previous study on baboons by Stuart Altmann (1998) on how long it took the year-old baboons to dig up tiger nuts and feed on various C4 sources. She calculated the likely time taken by hominins, suggesting that it would be at least twice that of the yearling baboons once their superior manual dexterity was taken into account. Dr Macho also factored in the likely calorie intake that would be needed by a big-brained human relative.

Tiger nuts, which are rich in starches, are highly abrasive in an unheated state. Dr Macho suggests that hominins' teeth suffered abrasion and wear and tear due to these starches. The study finds that baboons' teeth have similar marks giving clues about their pattern of consumption.

In order to digest the tiger nuts and allow the enzymes in the saliva to break down the starches, the hominins would need to chew the tiger nuts for a long time. All this chewing put considerable strain on the jaws and teeth, which explains why "Nutcracker Man" had such a distinctive cranial anatomy.

The Oxford study calculates a hominin could extract sufficient nutrients from a tiger nut- based diet, i.e. around 10,000 kilojoules or 2,000 calories a day -- or 80% of their required daily calorie intake, in two and half to three hours. This fits comfortably within the foraging time of five to six hours per day typical for a large-bodied primate.

Dr Macho, from the School of Archaeology at Oxford University, said: 'I believe that the theory -- that "Nutcracker Man" lived on large amounts of tiger nuts- helps settle the debate about what our early human ancestor ate. On the basis of recent isotope results, these hominins appear to have survived on a diet of C4 foods, which suggests grasses and sedges. Yet these are not high quality foods. What this research tells us is that hominins were selective about the part of the grass that they ate, choosing the grass bulbs at the base of the grass blade as the mainstay of their diet.

'Tiger nuts, still sold in health food shops as well as being widely used for grinding down and baking in many countries, would be relatively easy to find. They also provided a good source of nourishment for a medium-sized hominin with a large brain. This is why these hominins were able to survive for around one million years because they could successfully forage -- even through periods of climatic change.'

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109003949.htm



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 09-Jan-2014 at 23:00
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Jan-2014 at 22:26
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Feb-2014 at 21:15

From surf to turf: Archaeologists and chemists trace ancient British diets

The change by our ancestors from hunter-gathers to farmers is one of the most intensively researched aspects of archaeology. Now a large-scale investigation of British archaeological sites dating from around 4,600 BC to 1,400 AD has examined millions of fragments of bone and analysed over 1,000 cooking pots.

The team, led by Professor Richard Evershed of the University of Bristol's School of Chemistry, developed new techniques in an effort to identify fish oils in the pots. Remarkably, they showed that more than 99 per cent of the earliest farmer's cooking pots lacked sea food residues.

Other clues to ancient diets lie within human bones themselves, explored by the Cardiff group led by Dr Jacqui Mulville. The sea passes on a unique chemical signature to the skeletons of those eating seafood; while the early fisher folk possessed this signature it was lacking in the later farmers.

Lead author of the study, Dr Lucy Cramp said: "The absence of lipid residues of marine foods in hundreds of cooking pots is really significant. It certainly stacks up with the skeletal isotope evidence to provide a clear picture that seafood was of little importance in the diets of the Neolithic farmers of the region."

Returning to the pots, the Bristol team used a compound-specific carbon isotope technique they have developed to identify the actual fats preserved in the cooking pots, showing that dairy products dominated the menu right across Britain and Ireland as soon as cattle and sheep arrived.

The ability to milk animals was a revolution in food production as, for the first time humans did not have to kill animals to obtain food. As every farmer knows, milking stock requires a high level of skill and knowledge.

In view of this, team member, Alison Sheridan from the National Museum of Scotland concludes that: "The use of cattle for dairy products from the earliest Neolithic confirms the view that farming was introduced by experienced immigrants."

Viewed together the findings show that Early British hunters feasted on venison and wild boar and ate large quantities of sea food, including seals and shellfish. With the introduction of domestic animals some 6,000 years ago they quickly gave up wild foods and fishing was largely abandoned, and people adopted a new diet based around dairying.

Dr Cramp continued: "Amazingly, it was another 4,000 years before sea food remains appeared in pots again, during the Iron Age, and it was only with the arrival of the Vikings that fish became a significant part of our diet."

Dr Mulville said: "Whilst we like to think of ourselves as a nation of fish eaters, with fish and chips as our national dish, it seems that early British farmers preferred beef, mutton and milk."

Why people changed so abruptly from a seafood to farming diet remains a mystery. Professor Evershed said: "Since such a clear transition is not seen in the Baltic region, perhaps the hazardous North Atlantic waters were simply too difficult to fish effectively until new technologies arrived, making dairying the only sustainable option."

###

The study was funded by the National Environmental Research Council (NERC) with research on the Irish material funded by the European Union EU FP7 (Marie Curie Actions). It was a collaboration between the Universities of Bristol and Cardiff, the National Museum of Scotland and a number of other regional museums.

Paper

'Immediate replacement of fishing with dairying by the earliest farmers of the northeast Atlantic archipelagos' by Lucy J. E. Cramp, Jennifer Jones, Alison Sheridan, Jessica Smyth, Helen Whelton, Jacqui Mulville, Niall Sharples and Richard P. Evershed in Proceedings of the Royal Society B

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-02/uob-fst021214.php



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 13-Feb-2014 at 21:18
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Mar-2014 at 23:18

Talking Neanderthals challenge the origins of speech

A model of an adult Neanderthal male head and shoulders on display in the Hall of Human Origins in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Reconstruction based on the Shanidar 1 fossil (c. 80-60 kya).

 We humans like to think of ourselves as unique for many reasons, not least of which being our ability to communicate with words. But ground-breaking research by an expert from the University of New England shows that our 'misunderstood cousins,' the Neanderthals, may well have spoken in languages not dissimilar to the ones we use today.

Pinpointing the origin and evolution of speech and human language is one of the longest running and most hotly debated topics in the scientific world. It has long been believed that other beings, including the Neanderthals with whom our ancestors shared Earth for thousands of years, simply lacked the necessary cognitive capacity and vocal hardware for speech.

Associate Professor Stephen Wroe, a zoologist and palaeontologist from UNE, along with an international team of scientists and the use of 3D x-ray imaging technology, made the revolutionary discovery challenging this notion based on a 60,000 year-old Neanderthal hyoid bone discovered in Israel in 1989.

"To many, the Neanderthal hyoid discovered was surprising because its shape was very different to that of our closest living relatives, the chimpanzee and the bonobo. However, it was virtually indistinguishable from that of our own species. This led to some people arguing that this Neanderthal could speak," A/Professor Wroe said.

"The obvious counterargument to this assertion was that the fact that hyoids of Neanderthals were the same shape as modern humans doesn't necessarily mean that they were used in the same way. With the technology of the time, it was hard to verify the argument one way or the other."

However advances in 3D imaging and computer modelling allowed A/Professor Wroe's team to revisit the question.

"By analysing the mechanical behaviour of the fossilised bone with micro x-ray imaging, we were able to build models of the hyoid that included the intricate internal structure of the bone. We then compared them to models of modern humans. Our comparisons showed that in terms of mechanical behaviour, the Neanderthal hyoid was basically indistinguishable from our own, strongly suggesting that this key part of the vocal tract was used in the same way.

"From this research, we can conclude that it's likely that the origins of speech and language are far, far older than once thought."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140302185241.htm

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  Quote Don Quixote Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Mar-2014 at 01:46
Toilet paper in antiquity...
"...That revelation appears in an article entitled “Toilet Hygiene in the Classical Era,” by French anthropologist and forensic medicine researcher Philippe Charlier and his colleagues. Their report examines tidying techniques used way back—and the resultant medical issues. Such a study is in keeping with the BMJ's tradition of offbeat subject matter for its late December issue—as noted in this space five years ago: “Had the Puritans never left Britain for New England, they might later have fled the British Medical Journal to found the New England Journal of Medicine.”

The toilet hygiene piece reminds us that practices considered routine in one place or time may be unknown elsewhere or elsetime. The first known reference to toilet paper in the West does not appear until the 16th century, when satirist François Rabelais mentions that it doesn't work particularly well at its assigned task. Of course, the ready availability of paper of any kind is a relatively recent development. And so, the study's authors say, “anal cleaning can be carried out in various ways according to local customs and climate, including with water (using a bidet, for example), leaves, grass, stones, corn cobs, animal furs, sticks, snow, seashells, and, lastly, hands.” Sure, aesthetic sensibility insists on hands being the choice of last resort, but reason marks seashells as the choice to pull up the rear. “Squeezably soft” is the last thing to come to mind about, say, razor clams.

Charlier et al. cite no less an authority than philosopher Seneca to inform us that “during the Greco-Roman period, a sponge fixed to a stick (tersorium) was used to clean the buttocks after defecation; the sponge was then replaced in a bucket filled with salt water or vinegar water.” Talk about your low-flow toilets. The authors go on to note the use of rounded “fragments of ceramic known as ‘pessoi’ (meaning pebbles), a term also used to denote an ancient board game.” (The relieved man on the Museum of Fine Arts's wine cup is using a singular pessos for his finishing touches.) The ancient Greek game pessoi is not related to the ancient Asian game Go, despite how semantically satisfying it would be if one used stones from Go after one Went.

According to the BMJ piece, a Greek axiom about frugality cites the use of pessoi and their purpose: “Three stones are enough to wipe.” The modern equivalent is probably the purposefully self-contradictory “toilet paper doesn't grow on trees.”

Some pessoi may have originated as ostraca, pieces of broken ceramic on which the Greeks of old inscribed the names of enemies. The ostraca were used to vote for some pain-in-the-well-you-know to be thrown out of town—hence, “ostracized.” The creative employment of ostraca as pessoi allowed for “literally putting faecal matter on the name of hated individuals,” Charlier and company suggest. Ostraca have been found bearing the name of Socrates, which is not surprising considering they hemlocked him up and threw away the key. (Technically, he hemlocked himself, but we could spend hours in Socratic debate about who took ultimate responsibility.)

Putting shards of a hard substance, however polished, in one's delicate places has some obvious medical risks. “The abrasive characteristics of ceramic,” the authors write, “suggest that long term use of pessoi could have resulted in local irritation, skin or mucosal damage, or complications of external haemorrhoids.”
...."
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/toilet-tissue-anthropologists-uncover-all-the-ways-weve-wiped/?WT.mc_id=SA_Facebook

Stones and ceramic pieces? Those people where some hard-core dudes. It definitely will make me look upon the term "ostracized" in more than one way from now on.
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Mar-2014 at 22:12

Natural selection has altered the appearance of Europeans over the past 5,000 years

Grave with an about 5,000 years old skeleton from a kurgan of the Yamnaya culture near the town Kirovograd in Ukraine.

There has been much research into the factors that have influenced the human genome since the end of the last Ice Age. Anthropologists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and geneticists at University College London (UCL), working in collaboration with archaeologists from Berlin and Kiev, have analyzed ancient DNA from skeletons and found that selection has had a significant effect on the human genome even in the past 5,000 years, resulting in sustained changes to the appearance of people.

The results of this current research project have been published this week in an article entitled "Direct evidence for positive selection of skin, hair, and eye pigmentation in Europeans during the last 5,000 years" in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

For a number of years population geneticists have been able to detect echoes of natural selection in the genomes of living humans, but those techniques are typically not very accurate about when that natural selection took place. The researchers in Mainz and London now decided to take a new approach. This involved analyzing DNA from archaeological skeletons and then comparing the prehistoric data with that of contemporary Europeans using computer simulations. Where the genetic changes could not be explained by the randomness of inheritance, the researchers were able to infer that positive selection played a role, i.e., that frequency of a certain mutation increased significantly in a given population.

While investigating numerous genetic markers in archaeological and living individuals, Sandra Wilde of the Palaeogenetics Group at the JGU Institute of Anthropology noticed striking differences in genes associated with hair, skin, and eye pigmentation. "Prehistoric Europeans in the region we studied would have been consistently darker than their descendants today," says Wilde, first author of the PNAS article. "This is particularly interesting as the darker phenotype seems to have been preferred by evolution over hundreds of thousands of years. All our early ancestors were more darkly pigmented." However, things must have changed in the last 50,000 years as humans began to migrate to northern latitudes.

"In Europe we find a particularly wide range of genetic variation in terms of pigmentation," adds co-author Dr. Karola Kirsanow, who is also a member of the Palaeogenetics Group at Mainz University. "However, we did not expect to find that natural selection had been favoring lighter pigmentation over the past few thousand years." The signals of selection that the Mainz palaeogeneticists and their colleagues at University College London have identified are comparable to those for malaria resistance and lactase persistence, meaning that they are among the most pronounced that have been discovered to date in the human genome. The authors see several possible explanations. "Perhaps the most obvious is that this is the result of adaptation to the reduced level of sunlight in northern latitudes," says Professor Mark Thomas of UCL, corresponding author of the study. "Most people of the world make most of their vitamin D in their skin as a result UV exposure. But at northern latitudes and with dark skin, this would have been less efficient. If people weren't getting much vitamin D in their diet, then having lighter skin may have been the best option."

"But this vitamin D explanation seems less convincing when it comes to hair and eye color," Wilde continues. "Instead, it may be that lighter hair and eye color functioned as a signal indicating group affiliation, which in turn played a role in the selection of a partner." Sexual selection of this kind is common in animals and may also have been one of the driving forces behind human evolution over the past few millennia.

"We were expecting to find that changes in the human genome were the result of population dynamics, such as migration. In general we expect genetic changes due to natural selection to be the exception rather than the rule. At the same time, it cannot be denied that lactase persistence, i.e., the ability to digest the main sugar in milk as an adult, and pigmentation genes have been favored by natural selection to a surprising degree over the last 10,000 years or so," adds Professor Joachim Burger, senior author of the study. "But it should be kept in mind that our findings do not necessarily mean that everything selected for in the past is still beneficial today. The characteristics handed down as a result of sexual selection can be more often explained as the result of preference on the part of individuals or groups rather than adaptation to the environment."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140310182731.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Mar-2014 at 23:15

Language 'evolution' may shed light on human migration out-of-Beringia: Relationship between Siberian, North American languages

This polar projection map of Asia and North America shows the approximate terminal Pleistocene shoreline. The center of geographic distribution of Yeniseian and Na-Dene language is in Beringia. From this center burgundy arrows extend toward the North American coast and into Siberia. A blue arrow indicates Interior dispersals of Na-Dene.

Evolutionary analysis applied to the relationship between North American and Central Siberian languages may indicate that people moved out from the Bering Land Bridge, with some migrating back to central Asia and others into North America, according to a paper published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on March 12, 2014 by Mark Sicoli, from Georgetown University and Gary Holton from University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Languages evolve slowly overtime and may even follow human migratory patterns. A proposed language family known as the Dené-Yeniseian suggests that there are common language elements between the North American Na-Dene languages and the Yeniseian languages of Central Siberia. To investigate this further, scientists employed a technique originally developed to investigate evolutionary relationships between biological species called phylogenetic analysis, where a tree is constructed to represent relationships of common ancestry based on shared traits. Scientists used linguistic phylogeny to work out how approximately 40 languages from the area diffused across North America and Asia. The authors first coded a linguistic dataset from the languages, modeled the relationship between the data, and then modeled it against migration patterns from Asia to North America, or out-of-Beringia.

Results show an early dispersal of Na-Dene along the North American coast with a Yeniseian back migration through Siberia and a later dispersal of North American interior Na-Dene languages. Sicoli explained, "we used computational phylogenetic methods to impose constraints on possible family tree relationships modeling both an Out-of-Beringia hypothesis and an Out-of-Asia hypothesis and tested these against the linguistic data. We found substantial support for the out-of-Beringia dispersal adding to a growing body of evidence for an ancestral population in Beringia before the land bridge was inundated by rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age."

Although the authors cannot conclusively determine the migration pattern just from these results, and state that this study does not necessarily contradict the popular tale of hunters entering the New World through Beringia, it at the very least indicates that migration may not have been a one-way trip. This work also helps demonstrate the usefulness of evolutionary modeling with linguistic trees for investigating these types of questions.

These finding suggest that phylogenetics may be used to explore the implications of deep linguistic relationships.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140312182018.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Apr-2014 at 23:14

Europeans have three times more Neanderthal genes for lipid catabolism than Asians or Africans

Contemporary Europeans have as many as three times more Neanderthal variants in genes involved in lipid catabolism than Asians and Africans.

Although Neanderthals are extinct, fragments of their genomes persist in modern humans. These shared regions are unevenly distributed across the genome and some regions are particularly enriched with Neanderthal variants. An international team of researchers led by Philipp Khaitovich of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai, China, show that DNA sequences shared between modern humans and Neanderthals are specifically enriched in genes involved in the metabolic breakdown of lipids. This sharing of genes is seen mainly in contemporary humans of European descent and may have given a selective advantage to the individuals with the Neanderthal variants.

The researchers analyzed the distribution of Neanderthal variants in the genomes of eleven contemporary human populations of African, Asian and European descent. They found that genes involved in the lipid synthesis contained a particularly high number of Neanderthal variants in contemporary humans of European origin, but not in Asians and Africans.

"These sequences show signs of recent positive selection," says Philipp Khaitovich of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai, China. "This may indicate that they give modern humans carrying the Neanderthal genotype a selective advantage."

Analyzing the influence of Neanderthal variants on lipid processing in modern humans, the researchers further found recent evolutionary changes in lipid concentration and expression of metabolic enzymes in brains of humans of European origin.

"We don't know what these lipid concentration changes do to the brain, but the fact that Neanderthal variants might have changed our brain composition has interesting implications," says Philipp Khaitovich. Further work is needed, however, in order to fully assess the potential functional effects of these changes.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402100056.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Apr-2014 at 02:33

Ancient nomads spread earliest domestic grains along Silk Road, study finds

Findings push back earliest known East-West interaction along Slik Road by 2,000 years


Charred grains of barley, millet and wheat deposited nearly 5,000 years ago at campsites in the high plains of Kazakhstan show that nomadic sheepherders played a surprisingly important role in the early spread of domesticated crops throughout a mountainous east-west corridor along the historic Silk Road, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

"Our findings indicate that ancient nomadic pastoralists were key players in an east-west network that linked innovations and commodities between present-day China and southwest Asia," said study co-author Michael Frachetti, PhD, an associate professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University and principal investigator on the research project.

"Ancient wheat and broomcorn millet, recovered in nomadic campsites in Kazakhstan, show that prehistoric herders in Central Eurasia had incorporated both regional crops into their economy and rituals nearly 5,000 years ago, pushing back the chronology of interaction along the territory of the 'Silk Road' more than 2,000 years," Frachetti said.

The study, to be published April 2 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, establishes that several strains of ancient grains and peas had made their way across Eurasia thousands of years earlier than previously documented.

While these crops have been known to exist much earlier in ancient China and Southwest Asia, finding them intermingled in the Bronze Age burials and households of nomadic pastoralists provides some of the earliest concrete signs for east-west interaction in the vast expanse of Eurasian mountains and the first botanical evidence for farming among Bronze Age nomads.

Bread wheat, cultivated at least 6,000 years ago in Southwest Asia, was absent in China before 2500 B.C. while broomcorn millet, domesticated 8,000 years ago in China, is missing in southwest Asia before 2000 B.C. This study documents that ancient grains from eastern China and soutwest Asia had made their way to Kazakhstan in the center of the continent by 2700-2500 B.C. (nearly 5,000 years ago).

"This study starts to rewrite the model for economic change across Eurasia," said first author Robert Spengler, PhD, a paleoethnobotanist and research associate in Arts & Sciences at WUSTL.

"It illustrates that nomads had diverse economic systems and were important for reshaping economic spheres more generally."

Findings are based on archaeobotanical data collected from four Bronze Age pastoralist campsites in Central Eurasian steppe/mountains: Tasbas and Begash in the highlands of Kazakhstan and Ojakly and Site 1211/1219 in Turkmenistan.

"This is one of the first systematic applications of archaeobotany in the region, making the potential for further future discovery very exciting," Spengler said.

Frachetti and a team of WUSTL researchers led the on-site excavations, working closely with archaeologists based in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Italy. Spengler conducted the paleoethnobotany laboratory work at WUSTL, under the directorship of Gayle J. Fritz, PhD, professor of archaeology and expert in human-plant relationships.

"Finding this diverse crop assemblage at Tasbas and Begash illustrates first evidence for the westward spread of East Asian and Southwest Asian crops eastward, and the surprise is that it is nomads who are the agents of change," Frachetti said.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-04/wuis-ans033114.php

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Apr-2014 at 19:47

Humans and Neandertals interbred, new method confirms

Technical objections to the idea that Neandertals interbred with the ancestors of Eurasians have been overcome, thanks to a genome analysis method described in the April 2014 issue of the journalGenetics. The technique can more confidently detect the genetic signatures of interbreeding than previous approaches and will be useful for evolutionary studies of other ancient or rare DNA samples.

"Our approach can distinguish between two subtly different scenarios that could explain the genetic similarities shared by Neandertals and modern humans from Europe and Asia," said study co-author Konrad Lohse, a population geneticist at the University of Edinburgh. The first scenario is that Neandertals occasionally interbred with modern humans after they migrated out of Africa. The alternative scenario is that the humans who left Africa evolved from the same ancestral subpopulation that had previously given rise to the Neandertals.

Many researchers argue the interbreeding scenario is more likely, because it fits the genetic patterns seen in studies that compared genomes from many modern humans. But the new approach completely rules out the alternative scenario without requiring all the extra data, by using only the information from one genome each of several types: Neandertal, European/Asian, African and chimpanzee.

The same method will be useful in other studies of interbreeding where limited samples are available. "Because the method makes maximum use of the information contained in individual genomes, it is particularly exciting for revealing the history of species that are rare or extinct," said Lohse. In fact, the authors originally developed the method while studying the history of insect populations in Europe and island species of pigs in South East Asia, some of which are extremely rare.

Lohse cautions against reading too much into the fact that the new method estimates a slightly higher genetic contribution of Neandertals to modern humans than previous studies. Estimating this contribution is complex and is likely to vary slightly between different approaches.

"This work is important because it closes a hole in the argument about whether Neandertals interbred with humans. And the method can be applied to understanding the evolutionary history of other organisms, including endangered species," said Mark Johnston, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Genetics.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140408111228.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Apr-2014 at 19:18

Neanderthals were no strangers to good parenting

Archaeologists at the University of York are challenging the traditional view that Neanderthal childhood was difficult, short and dangerous.

A research team from PALAEO (Centre for Human Palaeoecology and Evolutionary Origins) and the Department of Archaeology at York offer a new and distinctive perspective which suggests that Neanderthal children experienced strong emotional attachments with their immediate social group, used play to develop skills and played a significant role in their society.

The traditional perception of the toughness of Neanderthal childhood is based largely on biological evidence, but the archaeologists, led by Dr Penny Spikins, also studied cultural and social evidence to explore the experience of Neanderthal children.In research published in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology, they found that Neanderthal childhood experience was subtly different from that of their modern human counterparts in that it had a greater focus on social relationships within their group. Investigation of Neanderthal burials suggests that children played a particularly significant role in their society, particularly in symbolic expression.

The research team, which also included Gail Hitchens, Andy Needham and Holly Rutherford, say there is evidence that Neanderthals cared for their sick and injured children for months and often years. The study of child burials, meanwhile, reveals that the young may have been given particular attention when they died, with generally more elaborate graves than older individuals.Neanderthal groups are believed to have been small and relatively isolated, suggesting important implications for the social and emotional context of childhood. Living in rugged terrain, there will have been little selection pressure on overcoming the tendency to avoid outside groups with a consequent natural emotional focus on close internal connections.

Dr Spikins, who has a new book on why altruism was central to human evolutionary origins, How Compassion Made Us Human, (Pen and Sword) published later this year, said: "The traditional view sees Neanderthal childhood as unusually harsh, difficult and dangerous. This accords with preconceptions about Neanderthal inferiority and an inability to protect children epitomising Neanderthal decline.

"Our research found that a close attachment and particular attention to children is a more plausible interpretation of the archaeological evidence, explaining an unusual focus on infants and children in burial, and setting Neanderthal symbolism within a context which is likely to have included children.

"Interpretations of high activity levels and frequent periods of scarcity form part of the basis for this perceived harsh upbringing. However, such challenges in childhood may not be distinctive from the normal experience of early Palaeolithic human children, or contemporary hunter-gatherers in particularly cold environments. There is a critical distinction to be made between a harsh childhood and a childhood lived in a harsh environment."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140409093947.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Apr-2014 at 22:20

First Eurasians left Africa up to 130,000 years ago

A team of researchers led by the University of Tübingen's Professor Katerina Harvati has shown that anatomically modern humans spread from Africa to Asia and Europe in several migratory movements. The first ancestors of today's non-African peoples probably took a southern route through the Arabian Peninsula as early as 130,000 years ago, the researchers found. The study is published by Professor Katerina Harvati and her team from the Institute for Archaeological Sciences at the University of Tübingen and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Ferrara, Italy, and the National Museum of Natural History, France. The study appears in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists tested different hypothetical dispersal scenarios, taking into account the geography of potential migration routes, genetic data and cranial comparisons. They found that the first wave of migration out of Africa started earlier than previously thought, taking place as early as the late Middle Pleistocene -- with a second dispersal to northern Eurasia following about 50,000 years ago.

Most scientists agree that all humans living today are descended from a common ancestor population which existed 100,000 to 200,000 years ago in Africa. The decreasing genetic and phenotypic diversity observed in humans at increasing distances from Sub-Saharan Africa has often been interpreted as evidence of a single dispersal 50,000 to 75,000 years ago. However, recent genetic, archaeological and palaeoanthropological studies challenge this scenario.

Professor Harvati's team tested the competing out-of-Africa models of a single dispersal against multiple dispersals of anatomically modern humans. The scientists compared modern human crania from different parts of the world, neutral genetic data, and geographical distances associated with different dispersal routes. Likewise, they reconstructed population split times from both the genetic data and as predicted by each competing model. Because each dispersal scenario is associated with specific geographic and temporal predictions, the researchers were able to test them against the observed neutral biological distances between groups, as revealed from both genetic and cranial data.

"Both lines of evidence -- anatomical cranial comparisons as well as genetic data -- support a multiple dispersal model," says Katerina Harvati. The first group of our ancestors left Africa about 130,000 years ago and followed a coastal route through the Arabian Peninsula to Australia and the west Pacific region. "Australian aborigines, Papuans and Melanesians were relatively isolated after the early dispersal along the southern route," says Hugo Reyes-Centeno, first author of the study and member of the Tübingen team. He adds that other Asian populations appear to be descended from members of a later migratory movement from Africa to northern Eurasia about 50,000 years ago.

The researchers are confident that continued field work and advances in genetics will allow for fine-tuning of models of human expansion out of Africa. So far we can only speculate whether, for example, severe droughts in East Africa occurring between 135,000 and 75,000 years ago prompted migration or had an impact on the local evolution of human populations. The southern route region is a vast geographical space that has been understudied by archaeologists and anthropologists, so future work in this area will help support their findings.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140421164242.htm

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Apr-2014 at 21:50

Anatomically Modern Humans Left Africa Earlier Than Previously Thought, Suggests Study

An international team of scientists conducting an analysis of the genetic diversity and cranial measurements of 10 African and Asian human populations conclude that anatomically modern humans may have dispersed out of Africa earlier than previously thought, and in more than one stage: initially into Asia by taking a southern route through Arabia as much as 130,000 years ago; and later into Northern Eurasia on a more northerly route 50,000 years ago.

The timing and nature of early modern human dispersal out of Africa has long been disputed among scholars, with competing theories or models about how and when it all occurred. The research team analyzed their data within the framework of the competing models, and came up with the model that best fits the results. "We tested for the first time to our knowledge the spatiotemporal dimensions of competing out-of-Africa dispersal models," write Hugo Reyes-Centeno and colleagues in their report, "analyzing in parallel genomic and craniometric data. Our results support an initial dispersal into Asia by a southern route beginning as early as ∼130 ka and a later dispersal into northern Eurasia by ∼50 ka."*  Reyes-Centeno is a paleoanthropologist with the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Germany. Other researchers included Katerina Harvati, also of Eberhard Karls University; Silvia Ghirotto and Guido Barbujani of the University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy; and Florent Détroit and Dominique Grimaud-Herve of the National Museum of Natural History, Paris, France.  

"This is consistent with archaeological evidence for modern human occupation in the southern Arabian Peninsula at ∼125 ka," write the authors. "This date [130,000 ka] is in intriguingly closer correspondence with the genetic divergence estimates for our sampled populations, with a calendar date of divergence between Melanesians and South Africans at ∼116 ka, for example. No modern human fossils have been discovered in the southern Arabian Peninsula, but lithic artifacts show affinities with African assemblages, including those discovered alongside the fossil remains at Herto, Ethiopia, dated between ∼154–160 ka."*

Genetic studies and fossil evidence show that the first common ancestral population of modern humans resided in Africa between ∼100–200 ka, and that members of one branch left Africa by between 125,000 and 60,000 years ago. A prominent theory suggests that over time these humans replaced earlier human populations such as Neanderthals and Homo erectus. Many scholars posit that the date of the earliest successful "out of Africa" migration took place about 60,000 years ago, according to genetic evidence, although recent archaeological finds on the Arabian Peninsula have suggested the possibility of a much earlier migration.

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/03012014/article/anatomically-modern-humans-left-africa-earlier-than-previously-thought-suggests-study



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 25-Apr-2014 at 21:52
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2014 at 00:13

Scientists Uncover Evidence of Change from Hunting to Herding at Early Neolithic Settlement

An international team of researchers examining the earliest known pre-ceramic Neolithic mound site in Turkey, called Aşıklı Höyük, suggests that humans shifted from hunting wild ungulates and small animals to managing sheep and goats at the site over a period of a few hundred years beginning on or before 8200 BCE. 

The mound, located in south-central Turkey about 25 km southeast of Aksaray, Turkey, has been the subject of a number of studies and excavations in recent years, beginning with Professor Ian A. Todd in 1964. Subsequent investigations included salvage excavations by Professor Ufuk Esin (University of Istanbul) beginning in 1989, followed by those of Nur Balkan-Ath, also of Istanbul University, and more recent excavations in 2010. 

Site finds have been stratified into 5 different levels, with the oldest (or earliest) being 5. The most significant findings for these study purposes were discovered in level 4, which contained evidence of human habitation dated to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic Period (a time period generally defined as lasting from 8500-5500 BCE), which is thought by many scholars to mark the transition from a hunter-gatherer way of life to a more settled way of life, including the beginnings of animal domestication.

stratigraphy2

Above and below: Multiple excavations at Aşıklı Höyük have revealed the telling stratigraphic sequencing of the site. Above credit Kvaestad, Wikimedia Commons, below credit Sarah Murray, Wikimedia Commons.

stratigraphy1

"This site preserves a surprisingly detailed record of human–animal interactions in a formative settlement," write study authors Mary C. Stiner, et al., in their recently released report. It is in part reflected in the gradual change in the human diet at the location:

A faunal trend through Levels 4–2 reveals a strategic trade-off in the meat diet, from a broad-spectrum strategy that emphasized diverse wild small animals and ungulates to a concerted exploitation of caprines [sheep and goats] in particular. Caprines constitute less than half of the total number of identified skeletal specimens (NISP) in upper Level 4, but caprines increase gradually to 85– 90% by the end of the time series in upper Level 2. The caprines were mainly sheep, which outnumbered goats by a factor of three or more in all periods.*

In addition, the study authors suggested that age-sex distributions of the caprines in upper Level 4 indicate selective manipulation [breeding] by humans by or before 8200 BCE, and that evidence of animal dung accumulation between structures demonstrates that the animals were held captive inside the settlement at that time. 

"Taken together," the researchers conclude, "the zooarchaeological and geoarchaeological evidence demonstrate an emergent process of caprine management that was highly experimental in nature and oriented to quick returns. Stabling was one of the early mechanisms of caprine population isolation, a precondition to domestication."*

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/03012014/article/scientists-uncover-evidence-of-change-from-hunting-to-herding-at-early-neolithic-settlement




Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 01-May-2014 at 00:20
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2014 at 23:41

Ground-breaking technique traces DNA direct to your ancestor's home 1,000 years ago

Visualization: World map with human genetic signatures overlaid.

Tracing where your DNA was formed over 1,000 years ago is now possible, thanks to a revolutionary technique developed by a team of international scientists led by experts from the University of Sheffield.

The ground-breaking Geographic Population Structure (GPS) tool, created by Dr Eran Elhaik from the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences and Dr Tatiana Tatarinova from the University of Southern California, works similarly to a satellite navigation system as it helps you to find your way home, but not the one you currently live in -- but rather your actual ancestor's home from 1,000 years ago.

Previously, scientists have only been able to locate where your DNA was formed to within 700kms, which in Europe could be two countries away; however this pioneering technique has been 98 per cent successful in locating worldwide populations to their right geographic regions, and down to their village and island of origin.

The breakthrough of knowing where the gene pools that created your DNA were last mixed has massive implications for life-saving personalised medicine, advancing forensic science and for the study of populations whose ancestral origins are under debate, such as African Americans, Roma gypsies and European Jews.

Genetic admixture occurs when individuals from two or more previously separated populations begin interbreeding. This results in the creation of new gene pools representing a mixture of the founder gene pool.

Such processes are extremely common in history during migrations and invasions, for example, when the Vikings invaded Britain and Europe in the 11th Century and settled with locals some of them formed a new Viking-Anglo-Saxon gene pool, but some married other Vikings and maintained their original gene pool, allowing GPS to trace their Scandinavian origins.

Dr Eran Elhaik said: "If we think of our world as being made up of different colours of soup -- representing different populations -- it is easy to visualise how genetic admixture occurs. If a population from the blue soup region mixes with a population from the red soup region their off-springs would appear as a purple soup.

"The more genetic admixture that takes place, the more different colours of soup are introduced which makes it increasingly difficult to locate your DNA's ancestry using traditional tools like Spatial Ancestry analysis (SPA) which has an accuracy level of less than two per cent."

He added: "What we have discovered here at the University of Sheffield is a way to find not where you were born -- as you have that information on your passport -- but where your DNA was formed up to 1,000 years ago by modelling these admixture processes.

"What is remarkable is that, we can do this so accurately that we can locate the village where your ancestors lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago -- until now this has never been possible."

To demonstrate how accurate GPS predictions are, Dr Elhaik and his colleagues analysed data from 10 villages in Sardinia and over 20 islands in Oceania. The research published today in the journal Nature Communications shows that Dr Elhaik and his team were able to place a quarter of the residents in Sardinia directly to their home village and most of the remaining residents within 50km of their village. The results for Oceania were no less impressive with almost 90 per cent success of tracing islanders exactly to their island.

"This is a significant improvement compared to the alternative SPA tool that placed Oceanians in India," said Elhaik.

"In his third book, children's author L. Frank Baum revealed that Oz resided around Australia. It always troubled me that if I ever met anyone claiming to be from the wonderful world of Oz, I would like to be able to verify their origins and now we can!

"This technique also means that we can no longer easily classify people's ethnic identities with one single label. It is impossible for any of us to tick one box on a form such as White British or African as we are much complex models with our own unique identities. The notion of races is simply not plausible."

Tracing our ancestry is now a major social trend and genealogy is the number one hobby in America. An estimated one million people in the USA have already had their DNA genotyped. People can explore their DNA by simply taking a swab from inside their mouth and sending it to a company such as 23andme or ancestry.com for costs ranging from $99-$200.

Dr Elhaik's co-author, Dr Tatiana Tatarinova, developed a website making GPS accessible to the public.

"To help people find their roots, I developed a website that allows anyone who has had their DNA genotyped to upload their results and use GPS to find their ancestral home," said Dr Tatarinova, who is also an Associate Professor of Research Paediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

"We were surprised by the simplicity and precision of this method. People in a given geographical area are more likely to have similar genetics. When they also have genetic traits typically found in other, distant regions, the geographical origin of those traits is generally the closest location where those traits can be found."

According to the researchers, in ethnically-diverse regions like the UK or US, where many people know only a few generations of their descendants, this kind of screening has huge, important medical implications.

Discovery of a certain genotype might indicate the potential for a genetic disease and suggest that diagnostic testing be done. Also, as scientists learn more about personalized medicine, there is evidence that specific genotypes respond differently to medications -- making this information potentially useful when selecting the most effective therapy and appropriate dosage. The investigators are currently designing a study to correlate pharmacokinetics -- the time course of drug metabolism -- with genotype.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140430192745.htm



Edited by TheAlaniDragonRising - 01-May-2014 at 23:42
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-May-2014 at 02:58

Dating and DNA show Paleoamerican-Native American connection

Eastern Asia, Western Asia, Japan, Beringia and even Europe have all been suggested origination points for the earliest humans to enter the Americas because of apparent differences in cranial form between today's Native Americans and the earliest known Paleoamerican skeletons. Now an international team of researchers has identified a nearly complete Paleoamerican skeleton with Native American DNA that dates close to the time that people first entered the New World.

"Individuals from 9,000 or more years ago have morphological attributes -- physical form and structure -- distinctive from later Native American peoples," said Douglas Kennett, professor of environmental archaeology, Penn State. "What we have here is the unique combination of an adolescent Paleoamerican skeleton with a Native American DNA haplotype."

The skeleton of a teenage girl was found in Hoyo Negro, a deeply submerged chamber in the Sac Actun cave system in the eastern Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Alberto Nava Blank and a team of science divers discovered the skeleton along with many extinct animal remains deep inside this inundated cave in 2007. The divers named the girl Naia. The Hoyo Negro project is led by Pilar Luna and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia of Mexico, Nava and James Chatters, owner of Applied Paleoscience, with funding from the National Geographic Society.

This collaborative interdisciplinary research effort is reported in today's (May 16) issue of Science.

Kennett and Brendan J. Culleton, postdoctoral fellow in anthropology, Penn State, were originally asked to directly date the skeleton. After traditional and well accepted direct-dating methods failed because the bones were mineralized from long emersion in warm salty water within this limestone cave system, they worked closely with colleagues to build a geochronological framework for Naia using a unique combination of techniques to constrain the age of the skeleton to the end of the ice age.

To build the case for a late Pleistocene age they collaborated with Yemane Asmerom and Victor Polyak from the University of New Mexico using global sea level rise data to determine when the cave system, which at the time Naia and the extinct animals entered was dry, filled with water. The site where Naia lies is now 130 feet below sea level and sea level rise would have raised the groundwater level in the cave system and submerged everything between 9,700 and 10,200 years ago. So initial estimates of the latest that animals and humans could have walked into the cave system was 9,700 years ago.

At the same time, the researchers experimented with uranium thorium dating the skeleton directly. Asmerom and Polyak tried to directly date Naia's teeth using this method, but that also did not work well.

The bones were found deep below today's ground surface in a collapsed chamber connected to the surface via a web of now flooded tunnels that Naia once walked along to fall to her untimely death. Because the caves are limestone, mineral deposits continued to form while the cave was largely dry. Working with Patricia Beddows, Northwestern University, Chatters noticed accumulations of calcium carbonate -- tiny rosettes of calcite deposited by water dripping off the cave roof -- which could be accurately dated using the uranium thorium method. Because these drip water deposits formed on top of Naia's bones, their date must occur after she fell in the cave. The oldest one dated so far is 12,000 years old.

Naia's tooth enamel was also radiocarbon dated to 12,900 years ago by Kennett's lab.

"Unfortunately, we can't rule out that the tooth enamel is contaminated with secondary carbonates from the cave system, but we removed potential contaminates using standard techniques and Tom Stafford, Stafford Research Laboratories, produced a comparable age," said Kennett. "We consider this a maximum age and when combined with the uranium thorium dates from the adhering speleothems, we argue that the skeleton dates between 12,000 and 13,000 years ago. Well placed as a Paleoamerican."

Morphologically, Naia does not look like a contemporary Native American, but mitochondrial DNA testing -- maternally inherited DNA -- carried out by Brian Kemp, Washington State University, and his collaborators shows that she has a D1 haplotype. This is consistent with the hypothesis that her ancestors' origins were in Beringia, a now partially submerged landmass including parts of Siberia, Alaska and the Yukon. Early humans moved into this area from elsewhere in Asia and remained there for quite some time. During that time they developed a unique haplotype that persists today in Native Americans. Genetically, Paleoamericans have similar attributes as modern Native Americans even if their morphology appears different.

"More work is needed," said Kennett. " There are still carbonate deposits on the bones of Naia and other animal bones in the cave. The Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia and the scientific diving community have nicely preserved the site so the next step will be to date additional samples to constrain the age of Naia and associated extinct animals further." Also working on this project were Eduard Reinhardt, McMaster University, Ontario; Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales, INAH; Deborah A. Bolnick, University of Texas at Austin; Ripan S. Malhi, University of Illinois; Dominique Rissolo, Waitt Institute; and Shanti Morell-Hart, Stanford University.

###

The National Geographic Society, Archaeological Institute of America, Waitt Institute, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia and the National Science Foundation supported this work. Penn State, the University of New Mexico, the University of Texas at Austin and DirectAMS also supported this project.

What a handsome figure of a dragon. No wonder I fall madly in love with the Alani Dragon now, the avatar, it's a gorgeous dragon picture.
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