Archives for the month of: May, 2012

so, the tidbit of info in the previous post about the mccoy clan being predisposed to von hippel–lindau disease (75% of the mccoy clan have had tumors on their adrenal glands — says so in wikipedia so it must be true), got me to thinking about what sorts of congenital conditions might offer clues to “genes for altruism” a la cochran, hardy & harpending [pdf].

re. the mccoys and von hippel–lindau disease:

“Some descendants of the McCoy family (involved in the Hatfield-McCoy feud of Appalachia, USA) as well as the Elliotts have VHL. In an article appearing in the Associated Press, it has been speculated by a Vanderbilt University endocrinologist that the hostility underlying the Hatfield–McCoy feud may have been partly due to the consequences of von Hippel–Lindau disease. The article suggests that the McCoy family was predisposed to bad tempers because many of them had a pheochromocytoma, which produced excess adrenaline and a tendency toward explosive tempers.

hmmm. excess adrenaline. that could certainly be beneficial if the sort of altruistic behavior you need to have to be reproductively successful is the kind where you’re willing to go out and fight the competing clan on behalf of your own.

so i started thinking about everybody’s favorite aggressively tribal inbreeders — the arabs — and aaaall the congenital disorders they have and if any of them might be related to adrenalin and/or the adrenal glands.

here’s one — congenital adrenal hyperplasia:

“Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) refers to any of several autosomal recessive diseases resulting from mutations of genes for enzymes mediating the biochemical steps of production of cortisol from cholesterol by the adrenal glands (steroidogenesis)…. CAH is a genetic disorder in which girls are masculinized because the adrenal glands secrete large amounts of androgen during prenatal development. The extra androgen does not affect a baby boy’s physical development, but in baby girls it can enlarge the clitoris so that it resembles a penis….

“Most of these conditions involve excessive or deficient production of sex steroids and can alter development of primary or secondary sex characteristics in some affected infants, children, or adults.”

so here’s a genetically recessive condition — so, like sickle cell anemia, you need to have two copies of the “bad” allele to have the condition — that masculinizes girls ’cause the female fetus is exposed to lots of androgen. and male fetuses are not affected? at all? couldn’t they be “extra” masculinized in some way? maybe that’s not the case, but it sure makes me wonder.

and androgen certainly has interesting effects on the brain:

“Circulating levels of androgens can influence human behavior because some neurons are sensitive to steroid hormones. Androgen levels have been implicated in the regulation of human aggression and libido.”

well, what do you need to survive in a warring clannish/tribal society but high levels of aggression? amirite?!

the world-wide incidence of CAH is 1:14,199 live births. in kuwait it’s 1:7,000 and amongst moroccan jews it’s between 1:5000-1:7000 (i know, i know — they’re not arabs — but they’re part of the same sort of clannish, inbreeding society being in morocco). there are also apparently high rates in egypt (alexandria), but i don’t know what the prevlance is. it’s also considered a problem in tunisia, jordan, oman, uae and saudi arabia.

here’s a breakdown of the prevalence in several populations:

1:282 – yupik eskimos of southwestern alaska
1:2,141 – edit: la reunion, france (or la reunion, france? see comments.)
1:5000-1:7000 – moroccan jews
1:7,000 – kuwait
1:10,866 – france (whites)
1:10,866 – italy (whites)
1:14,500 – new zealand
1:15,800 – japan
1:17,098 – scotland

carriers of one allele related to CAH often exhibit “symptoms of androgen excess.”

androgen excess? aggression? high prevalence in the arab world? clannish/tribal societies? possible “genes for altruism”?

dunno. just a thought.

previously: hatfields and mccoys and which altruism genes?

(note: comments do not require an email. chaaaaaaarge!)

“A man has a right to defend his family.”William Anderson ‘Devil Anse’ Hatfield [Albion's Seed]

that’s ‘devil anse’ there in the second row — sitting down, second from the left, long beard and shotgun in his hand.

i haven’t seen the show (yet) about america’s most famous family feud in which something like eleven people were killed — i count 9 to 2 with the hatfields in the lead (i.e. nine mccoys dead and only two hatfields) — but judging from the traffic over the last two days, a lot of people have!

the mccoys are/were scotch-irish and hatfield is an anglo-saxon name, probably from up yorkshire way. in Albion’s Seed, david hackett fischer describes how the settlers of appalachia were scotch-irish, or came from the border areas between england and scotland, and all had a unique culture with a long history based on extended families and clans and traditions of cattle raiding and battles between clans, traditions that they brought to the united states with them. from Albion’s Seed [links added by me]:

“Backcountry Family Ways: Border Ideas of Clan and Kin

“From the perspective of an individual within this culture, the structure of the family tended to be a set of concentric rings, in which the outermost circles were thicker and stronger than among other English-speaking people. Beyond the nuclear core, beyond even the extended circle, there were two rings which were unique to this culture. One was called the derbfine. It encompassed all kin within the span of four generations. For many centuries, the laws of North Britain and Ireland had recognized the derbfine as a unit which defined the descent of property and power. It not only connected one nuclear family to another, but also joined one generation to the next.

“Beyond the derbfine lay a larger ring of kinship which was called the clan in North Britain. We think of clans today mainly in connection with the Scottish Highlands. But they also existed in the lowlands, northern Ireland and England’s border counties where they were a highly effective adaptation to a world of violence and chronic insecurity.

“The clans of the border were not precisely the same as those of the Scottish Highlands, and very different from the Victorian contrivances of our own time. They had no formal councils, tartans, sporrans, bonnets or septs. But they were clannish in the most fundamental sense: a group of related families who lived near to one another, were conscious of a common identity, carried the same surname, claimed descent from common ancestors and banded together when danger threatened.

“Some of these border clans were very formidable. The Armstrongs, one of the largest clans on the Cumbrian border in the sixteenth century, were reputed to be able to field 3,000 mounted men, and were much feared by their neighbors. The Grahams held thirteen towers on the western border in 1552, and bid defiance to their foes. The Rutherfords and Halls were so violent that royal officials in 1598 ordered no quarter to be given to anyone of those names. The Johnston-Johnson clan adorned their houses with the flayed skins of their enemies the Maxwells in a blood feud that continued for many generations.

“These North British border clans tended to settle together in the American backcountry….”

i posted previously on how the border clans probably praciticed some form of inbreeding or endogamous mating (like the irish perhaps) and that that’s why they were clannish in nature. hackett fischer backs me up on that with an example from northern england — and inbreeding/endogamous mating certainly happened in appalachia:

In many cases the husband and wife both came from the same clan. In the Cumbrian parish of Hawkshead, for example, both the bride and groom bore the same last names in 25 percent of all marriages from 1568 to 1704. Marriages in the backcountry, like those on the borders, also occurred very frequently between kin….

“These clans fostered an exceptionally strong sense of loyalty, which a modern sociologist has called ‘amoral familism,’ from the ethical perspective of his own historical moment. In its own time and place, it was not amoral at all, but a moral order of another kind, which recognized a special sense of obligation to kin. That imperative was a way of dealing with a world where violence and disorder were endemic. Long after it had lost its reason for being, family loyalty retained its power in the American backcountry.

“An example was the persistence of the family feud, which continued for many centuries in the southern highlands. These feuds flowed from the fact that families in the borderlands and back-country were given moral properties which belonged mainly to individuals in other English-speaking cultures. Chief among them were the attributes of honor and shame. When one man forfeited honor in the backcountry, the entire clan was diminished by his loss. When one woman was seduced and abandoned, all her ‘menfolk’ shared the humiliation. The feuds of the border and the backcountry rose mainly from this fact. When ‘Devil Anse’ Hatfield was asked to explain why he had murdered so many McCoys, he answered simply, ‘A man has a right to defend his family.’ And when he spoke of his family, he meant all Hatfields and their kin. This backcountry folkway was strikingly similar to the customs of the borderers.

“Historians of a materialist persuasion have suggested that the feud was a modern invention in the southern highlands. One has called it a ‘response to industrialism.’ Another has interpreted it as the product of changes in the means of production. These modern processes would indeed provide many occasions for feuds. But they were not the cause of the feuding itself, which had deeper cultural roots. Other historians have argued that southern feuds were mainly a legacy of the Civil War. But feuds occurred in the backcountry before 1861. They were part of the brutal violence of the American Revolution in the backcountry. Strong continuities in family feuding may be traced from the borders of North Britain to the American backcountry — a pattern that persisted throughout the southern highlands even into the twentieth century.

people become clannish or tribal when they marry/mate closely repeatedly over generations. if you want to understand, and perhaps get rid of, clans and family feuds and killings in the name of family honor, then you have to understand/get rid of the close marriages.

an interesting note about the mccoy clan (via wikipedia):

“Hatfield-McCoy feud blamed on ‘rage’ disease

“Rare, genetic condition may have fueled violent tempers across generations

“The most infamous feud in American folklore, the long-running battle between the Hatfields and McCoys, may be partly explained by a rare, inherited disease that can lead to hair-trigger rage and violent outbursts.

“Dozens of McCoy descendants apparently have the disease, which causes high blood pressure, racing hearts, severe headaches and too much adrenaline and other ‘fight or flight’ stress hormones.

“No one blames the whole feud on this, but doctors say it could help explain some of the clan’s notorious behavior….

“Von Hippel-Lindau disease, which afflicts many family members, can cause tumors in the eyes, ears, pancreas, kidney, brain and spine. Roughly three-fourths of the affected McCoys have pheochromocytomas — tumors of the adrenal gland.

“The small, bubbly-looking orange adrenal gland sits atop each kidney and makes adrenaline and substances called catecholamines. Too much can cause high blood pressure, pounding headaches, heart palpitations, facial flushing, nausea and vomiting. There is no cure for the disease, but removing the tumors before they turn cancerous can improve survival.

“Affected family members have long been known to be combative, even with their kin. Reynolds recalled her grandfather, ‘Smallwood’ McCoy.

“‘When he would come to visit, everyone would run and hide. They acted like they were scared to death of him. He had a really bad temper,’ she said….”

previously: “culture” of honor and traditional family systems in medieval britain and ireland and start here

(note: comments do not require an email. the mccoys.)

in Understanding Human History, michael hart did a real nice job of explaining how kin selection or inclusive fitness works and how “genes for altruism” could be selected for [pgs. 37-38]:

“For about a century after Darwin proposed his theory of evolution, the origin of altruistic behavior in animals remained a puzzle. It was not until the 1960s, when William D. Hamilton proposed his theory of kin selection, that a satisfactory explanation was given. That theory can perhaps best be explained by an example:

“Suppose a man sees his identical twin drowning in a river, and estimates (correctly) that if he were to jump in and try to save his brother the probability of success would be 80%, while the probability that he would die in the attempt would be 20%. Consider these two alternatives:

“a) Some of the man’s genes strongly dispose him to rescue his brother, and he therefore jumps in and tries to save him (‘altruistic behavior’).

“b) The man does not have genes that dispose him to rescue his brother, and he therefore stays on the shore and lets his brother drown (‘selfish behavior’).

“In case (b), exactly one copy of the man’s genes survives, and may later be replicated. However, in case (a), if the rescue attempt is successful, two copies of the man’s genes survive (one in his own body, one in his brother’s). As this will happen 80% of the time, on average 1.6 (= 0.80 × 2) copies of the man’s genes will survive. In this situation, therefore, genes that dispose a person to altruistic behavior will — on average — have more surviving copies than genes that dispose a person to act selfishly and will be favored by natural selection.

“Now consider a slightly different example. Suppose that the man on shore is a brother — but not a twin — of the person who is drowning. Case (b) will still result in one copy of his genes being preserved. However, since ordinary siblings share only 50% of their genes, if the man on shore succeeds in rescuing his brother then (on average) 1.5 copies of the man’s genes will survive. Since 80% of the attempts will be successful, case (a) will on average result in 1.2 (= 0.80 × 1.5) copies of the altruistic genes surviving. Since 1.2 is greater than 1.0, the altruistic genes will be favored by natural selection in this case too.

“Suppose, however, that the two men were not brothers, but merely first cousins. First cousins, on average, share only one-eighth of their genes. In this case, altruistic behavior results in only 0.9 (= 0.80 × 1.125) copies of the man’s genes surviving, and natural selection will therefore favor the genes for selfish behavior.

“The upshot is that a gene that disposes its bearer to behave altruistically toward a close relative can have a selective advantage over one that disposes its bearer to act completely selfishly. Furthermore, this can occur even though the relative never returns the favor, and even if the survival of the relative does not increase the group’s chances of survival. It is not necessary that either reciprocal altruism or group selection operate for kin selection to result in the spread of genes that dispose their bearer to act altruistically toward close relatives.”

what’s missing from these examples is, of course, inbreeding. and depth of time.

take michael’s second example up there…

“Suppose that the man on shore is a brother — but not a twin — of the person who is drowning.”

…but let’s add that the parents of these brothers were first-cousins. that makes these two guys: brothers AND second-cousins (i.e. the children of two first-cousins). so they probably share not only 50% of their genes in common as brothers, but also 3.13% of their genes in common as second-cousins. so the “push” to jump in the water to save the brother/cousin must be somewhat stronger in the inbred pair than for the brother to save just a plain ol’ brother.

now let’s take this example of michael’s…

“Suppose, however, that the two men were not brothers, but merely first cousins. First cousins, on average, share only one-eighth of their genes.”

…but let’s make them double first-cousins rather than just first-cousins. what happens then?

well, while first-cousins probably share 1/8th or 12.5% of their genes in common, double first-cousins share … well, double that! … or 1/4 or 25% of their genes in common.

what happens to michael’s calculation then?

“In this case, altruistic behavior results in only 0.9 (= 0.80 × 1.125) copies of the man’s genes surviving, and natural selection will therefore favor the genes for selfish behavior.”

in the case of double first-cousins the calculation becomes 0.80 x 1.25 = 1.0. that’s just breaking even using michael’s example, but what if the odds of saving the cousin from drowing are better than 80%?

or what about the depth of time i mentioned above? what if the family of my double first-cousins has been inbreeding for a very long time. a very, very long time. like for fifty generations or more. then the relatedness between all the family members, including these double first-cousins, will be even closer. natural selection ought, then, to favor such double first-cousins jumping in to save each other.

as wade and breden showed (see also previous post), inbreeding can help to accelerate the rate of the evolution (or frequency in a population) of altruism genes [pg. 846]:

[T]he increase in matings between homozygous parents decreases the genetic variance within families, because these matings produce genotypically homogeneous arrays of offspring.”

repeated inbreeding in a family reduces the diversity (whoa!) of the allele types within that family, and if we’re talking about “genes for altruism” here, then the variety of those must get reduced within inbred families, too. in a population that consists of, say, ten inbreeding families, the one that has super-duper altruism genes that lead all of its family members to help each other out more than the members of the other families will have the advantage (provided selection favors that advantage for whatever reasons). and those super-duper altruism genes will no doubt eventually spread to the other families since, in reality, no family groups inbreed 100% of the time anywhere — there will pretty definitely be gene flow between families. so then you’ll get a whole population of super-duper family altruists (note that these people are NOT altruistic to unrelated individuals).

the human populations on earth today that inbreed most closely (within patrilineages) and often practice double first-cousin marriage — AND have been doing this for prolly at least a couple of thousand years (time depth) — are the arabs (who later spread these mating practices to the maghreb, the mashriq and far off places like iraq and afghanistan and all the other ‘stans) and some peoples in the levant like the druze. i think that, because of their long-standing mating practices, they are the prime human examples of wade and breden’s accelerated evolution of altruism thanks to inbreeding.

previously: inbreeding and the evolution of altruistic behavior and more on inbreeding and the evolution of altruistic behavior

(note: comments do not require an email. meerkitty alert!)

they’s inbreeding too much!:

Meerkat survival ‘threatened by inbreeding’

Researchers spent 20 years studying data from almost 2,000 meerkats living in clans in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert.

They found almost half of the animals showed some evidence of inbreeding.

Meerkat pups that are inbred are smaller, lighter and less likely to survive in the wild than their counterparts….

Newborn pups were weighed and measured, their DNA analysed and their parentage determined.

The researchers found that 44% of the meerkats studied showed some evidence of inbreeding.

In the wild, the desert mammals live in clans of up to 50 individuals, where subordinate adults help parents care for their offspring [altruism].

The scientists’ work showed that closely related meerkats never breed with each other [westermarck], but that inbreeding occurred between more distantly related individuals who were unfamiliar with one another, perhaps because they lived in separate groups….

i sooo wish one of these researchers would look at genetic relatedness and kin selection/altruism in these meerkats. i’ve been wishing that for a long time now, but i didn’t know if they had the genetic data or not. now i know they do. come on, researchers! please?

research article: Inbreeding and inbreeding depression of early life traits in a cooperative mammal

(note: comments do not require an email. super-altruistic meerkitty. *sniff*)

hbders are used to thinking about differences between human populations in the world today, but we shouldn’t forget that human biodiversity works in time as well as space the final frontier.

here’s one of my favorite quotes from greg cochran:

“[That human evolution has continued] means that people were different in the past, enough that we’ll have to take it into account when trying to understand history. Ultimately it may cause us to radically reevaluate some of our historical ideas — the past may never be the same again.”

people in the past were not just like us. and — omg! — people in the future are not gonna be like us either!

(note: comments do not require an email. puffin alert!)

*update below.*

here are the results as they stand today for the egyptian presidential election, but i do believe there are some disputes in the air so these may not be the final results (click on map for LARGER view).

- mursi = the muslim brotherhood guy
- shafiq = former member of mubarak’s government – secularist military guy
- sabbahi – secularist, socialist, nasserist guy.
- i dunno who the other two candidates are.

so the muslim brotherhood candidate did best in the upper egypt governorates (blue); the military candidate (former member of mubarak’s government) did best in lower egypt – in the delta governorates – and luxor (red); and the socialist guy did best in urban areas (cairo, alexandria, port said) and the red sea governorate (purple).

check out the mating patterns for egypt (see previous post for the numbers on the inbreeding levels.):

- upper egypt (medium gray) = muslim brotherhood = most inbreeding. mursi carried all of the upper egypt governorates.

- lower egypt (light gray) = secular military mubarak guy = middle amount of inbreeding. shafiq carried five of the nine lower egypt governorates. two of the remaining ones went for the muslim brotherhood guy, one (kafr al sheikh) went for the nasserist guy, and one for one of the other candidates.

- urban areas (lightest gray) = secular socialist guy = least amount of inbreeding. sabbahi carried three of the four urban governorates (cairo, alexandria and port said).

i’m not saying there’s a direct connection between the mating patterns and the election results, but there’s clearly some sort of relationship.

meanwhile: Activist finds Sabbahi ballots in sugar cane bushes

previously: mating patterns in egypt and voting patterns and clans in egypt

update: see also Egyptian tribal leaders no longer command the votes of their clans

interesting! i wonder: 1) if this is true; 2) if it is, how prevelent it is; 3) if it will stick.

(note: comments do not require an email. the electorate.)

if you think she looks more berber than swedish, that’s ’cause she is. (don’t even ask me about the lipstick(?). as a woman of the female persuasion, i got a lot of thoughts on that but … no comment.)

(note: comments do not require an email. here are some actual SWEDES who won the eurovision! oh wait … i think at least one of them is norwegian. same difference! (~_^) )


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 228 other followers