Tuesday, November 8, 2011

People Get Ready (The Iceman Cometh): Siberians Share DNA With Extinct Human Species!!

Man's ancestors mated with Neanderthals and other related hominids during human evolution, according to a new study.


      Researchers have found that people in East Asia share genetic material with Denisovans, who got the name from the cave in Siberia where they were first found.  Man's ancestors mated with Neanderthals and other related hominids during human evolution, according to a new study.

      The new study covers a larger part of the world than earlier research, and it is clear that it is not as simple as previously thought.

Denisova Cave 

      Professor Mattias Jakobsson, of Uppsala University in Sweden who conducted the study together with graduate student Pontus Skoglund, said hybridisation took place at several points in evolution and the genetic traces of this can be found in several places in the world.

      He said: "We'll probably be uncovering more events like these.

      "Previous studies have found two separate hybridisation events between so-called archaic humans - different from modern humans in both genetics and morphology - and the ancestors of modern humans after their emergence from Africa.

      "There was hybridisation between Neanderthals and the ancestors of modern humans outside of Africa and hybridisation between Denisovans and the ancestors of indigenous Oceanians.

Valley of the Denisova Cave

       "The genetic difference between Neanderthals and Denisovans is roughly as great as the maximal level of variation among us modern humans."

      The Uppsala scientists' study demonstrates that hybridisation also occurred on the East Asian mainland.

      The connection was discovered by using genotype data in order to obtain a larger data set.
      Complete genomes of modern humans are only available from some dozen individuals today, whereas genotype data is available from thousands of individuals.

      These genetic data can be compared with genome sequences from Neanderthals and a Denisovan which have been determined from archeological material.

     Only a pinky finger and a tooth have been described from the latter.

 The Denisova tooth

      Genotype data stems from genetic research where hundreds of thousands of genetic variants from test panels are gathered on a chip.

      However, this process leads to unusual variants not being included, which can lead to biases if the material is treated as if it consisted of complete genomes.

      Prof Jakobsson and Skoglund used advanced computer simulations to determine what this source of error means for comparisons with archaic genes and have thereby been able to use genetic data from more than 1,500 modern humans from all over the world.

      Prof Jakobsson said: "We found that individuals from mainly Southeast Asia have a higher proportion of Denisova-related genetic variants than people from other parts of the world, such as Europe, America, West and Central Asia, and Africa.

     "The findings show that gene flow from archaic human groups also occurred on the Asian mainland."

       Skoglund added: "While we can see that genetic material of archaic humans lives on to a greater extent than what was previously thought, we still know very little about the history of these groups and when their contacts with modern humans occurred."

     Because they find Denisova-related gene variants in south east Asia and Oceania, but not in Europe and America, the researchers suggest that hybridisation with Denisova man took place about 20 million years ago, but could also have occurred earlier.

      This is long after the branch that became modern humans split off from the branch that led to Neanderthals and Denisovans some 300,000 to 500,000 years ago.

    Prof Jakobsson said: "With more complete genomes from modern humans and more analyses of fossil material, it will be possible to describe our prehistory with considerably greater accuracy and richer detail." 
      The findings were published in the online edition of the journal PNAS.


On the cusp of the Tunguska Event

NOTE:  This story interests me for several reasons:

I.   Jane's been studying this subject in school this term, reading William Goldman's The Inheritors, as well as other relevant scientific and anthropological material.  It's on her mind, in our conversations and review sessions, and you know: These grades go to Colleges!!.

Artist's renderng of Tunguska Event (pre-impact)

II.  Could anything be more fascinating than the study of Early Man?   My Physical Anthropology course at Swarthmore College, taught by Professor Steven Piker, was utterly engrossing -- every week a serious adventure in learning and discovery.  I will always remember Professor Piker's deep love and knowledge of his subject, his passionate, infectious enthusiasm and his unfailing courtesy and personal kindnessI also recall the very weird "National Character" school of physical anthropology which developed in the 1940s and how it seemed to elevate bigotry and gross generalization to the level of being a unified theory of natureUber-simplistic explanations of complex phenomena may prove false, but they can have mad memorability and panache.

Tunguska Event aftermath

III.  When I was very young, my father told me on several occasions that his own college anthropology professor once advised him that he was "a perfect example of Transalpine Man."  My conversations with my father tended to be fragmentary (like much of ancient history) and I have no idea what he meant by this.  I wanted to research this because I thought that if my own father was a perfect example of Transalpine Man,  I must at least be a pretty good specimen and this might be a good resume item.

(Speaking of Siberia, as we were a short minute ago, I absolutely believe that the other side of my family tree came through Ellis Island shortly after landing on this planet as a result of the 1908 Tunguska Event. All the facts fit. I don't believe this can be disproven.)

Unfortunately,  my research was pretty fruitlessThe only references I could find to "transalpine men" concerned a Swiss Catholic order called the Transalpine Redemptorists and these were clearly irrelevant.  

For the record,Webster's defines "transalpine" as follows: 

1.  situated beyond the Alps, especially toward the north as viewed from Italy.
2.  passing or extending across or through the Alps: a transalpine railway.
3. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of peoples or lands beyond the Alps.

4. native or inhabitant of a country beyond the Alps.

Tunguska Event aftermath 2

My father's "people," such as they are (if you're nice to me, I'll never introduce them to you and you won't need to count the silverware so often and so carefully), have no obvious connection to the Alps My father himself preferred flatter, more urban sections of France, Italy and Switzerland.   

If anyone can shed any light on this very odd and obscure anthropological description, however, I'm all (Transalpine) Ears, like my maternal ancestor Mr. Spock, my only celebrity relative except for Major General Smedley Darlington Butler (but that's through marriage).

Tunguska CraterI can see my house from here.

Musical Entertainment (for hominids and others):  

Query of the Week:  What can possibly surpass the unsurpassable People Get Ready by The Impressions?  

One of my most vivid and stirring memories is picking up the telephone at the ABC Records offices at 1414 Avenue of the Americas early one morning in 1977 and finding on the other end of the line a person introducing himself as Jerry Butler, who was calling to speak to our office head, Barbara Harris.  

Hearing the beautiful, sonorous voice, I found myself saying without thinking: 

"The Ice Man?"  

Mr. Butler said YesIt was quite a thrill. 

(N.b.  The Ice Man does not appear on People Get Ready.) 


  1. Enjoyed the Data and research on this web site. More people should coment on this topic. I beleive there are some plausable facts in the article about mans history and evolution. Thanks for the information.

  2. Thank you for visiting and for your commment and kind words. I too wish more people would comment more often, but many people visit and, I hope, enjoy this site as you did. Please come back and please let me know what you think of what you read. And Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you! Curtis