Using genetic analyses, scientists have discovered that Northern European populations — including British, Scandinavians, French, and some Eastern Europeans — descend from a mixture of two very different ancestral populations, and one of these populations is related to Native Americans. This discovery helps fill gaps in scientific understanding of both Native American and Northern European ancestry, while providing an explanation for some genetic similarities among what would otherwise seem to be very divergent groups.
This research was published in the November 2012 issue of the Genetics Society of America’s journal Genetics. Read more.
No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a succulent roasted turkey. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that consumers cook and eat more than 45 million turkeys every Thanksgiving. Very few Americans, however, know much about the difference between their gravy-smothered poultry and the poultry that earlier generations of Americans ate to celebrate the holiday.
“Ancient turkeys weren’t your Butterball,” said Rob Fleischer, head of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics. “We set out to compare the genetic diversity of the domestic turkeys we eat today with that of the ancestral wild turkey from South Mexico. Some of what we found surprised us.” Read more.
Cross-breeding of dogs over thousands of years has made it extremely difficult to trace the ancient genetic roots of today’s pets, according to a new study led by Durham University. An international team of scientists analyzed data of the genetic make-up of modern-day dogs, alongside an assessment of the global archaeological record of dog remains, and found that modern breeds genetically have little in common with their ancient ancestors.
Dogs were the first domesticated animals and the researchers say their findings will ultimately lead to greater understanding of dogs’ origins and the development of early human civilization.
Although many modern breeds look like those depicted in ancient texts or in Egyptian pyramids, cross-breeding across thousands of years has meant that it is not accurate to label any modern breeds as “ancient,” the researchers said. Read more.
Does evolution have a soft spot for blondes? About 5–10% of people from Melanesia, a group of islands northeast of Australia, have naturally blonde hair — the highest prevalence outside Europe. Yet people from the region have the darkest skin pigmentation outside Africa.
Now, a study of people from the Solomon Islands in Melanesia shows that they evolved the striking blonde trait independently of people in Europe. This refutes the possibility that blonde hair was introduced by colonial Europeans, says Carlos Bustamante, a geneticist at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California, and a senior co-author on the study, which is published today in Science. ”Blonde hair has clearly evolved twice,” he says. Read more.
The complex world of human genetics research speaks a language unfamiliar to most of us, but it has opened up a new window on our understanding of the dynamics of ancient populations; and few areas of research have been more tantalizing than that surrounding the questions of how modern humans are related to the Neandertals, an ancient species of human whose morphology or physical characteristics disappeared from the human fossil record roughly 30,000 years ago.
The most recent studies have provided evidence about when the Neandertal (Homo neandertalensis) and modern human populations (Homo sapiens) first diverged from a common ancestral population. They have also suggested that Neandertals and ancient modern humans interbred, and that some distinct modern populations have more Neandertal ancestry than others. Read more.
New Delhi, July 16: Scientists have plucked clues from genetics, archaeology and linguistics to reconstruct a history of the domestication of bananas, showing that some of India’s cultivated bananas have 4,000-year old genomic roots from Southeast Asia.
Their studies suggest that the earliest cultivation of bananas was in the Kuk Swamp area of Papua New Guinea about 6,600 years ago, and that bananas were ferried by small groups of people from Southeast Asia moving westward into India and beyond.
A Southeast Asian banana species known as Mlali, a short and yellow variety, was carried from the Indonesian islands into India around 4,000 years ago where its genome is still found in three varieties — Pome, Nendra Padithi and Nadaan, their studies show. Read more.
South Americans helped colonise Easter Island centuries before Europeans reached it. Clear genetic evidence has, for the first time, given support to elements of this controversial theory showing that while the remote island was mostly colonised from the west, there was also some influx of people from the Americas.
Easter Island is the easternmost island of Polynesia, the scattering of islands that stretches across the Pacific. It is also one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world.
So how did it come to be inhabited in the first place? Genetics, archaeology and linguistics all show that as a whole, Polynesia was colonized from Asia, probably from around Taiwan. The various lines of evidence suggest people began migrating east around 5500 years ago, reached Polynesia 2500 years later, before finally gaining Easter Island after another 1500 years. Read more.