What Your DNA Says About Medieval History“A new study uses genetic data from living people to trace millennia-old migration patterns…. [M]uch of what Capelli and his colleagues discovered meshed with what historians already knew. For example, among northern Europeans, highest rate of admixing took place ‘around the late first millennium C.E., a time known to have involved significant upheaval in Europe,’ while admixture between north African and southern European populations was dated to a time span ‘consistent with migrations associated with the Arabic Conquest of the Iberian peninsula.’ But there were surprises, too. Most notably, Capelli and his colleagues discovered evidence for an influx of Mongolians into Europe that predated the reign of Ghengis Khan.” – orig. research article: The Role of Recent Admixture in Forming the Contemporary West Eurasian Genomic Landscape.

Inuit Study Adds Twist to Omega-3 Fatty Acids’ Health Story“A study published on Thursday in the journal Science reported that the ancestors of the Inuit evolved unique genetic adaptations for metabolizing omega-3s and other fatty acids. Those gene variants had drastic effects on Inuit’s bodies, reducing their heights and weights. Rasmus Nielsen, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, and an author of the new study, said that the discovery raised questions about whether omega-3 fats really were protective for everyone, despite decades of health advice. ‘The same diet may have different effects on different people,’ he said…. The researchers found several genetic variants at different locations in the genome that were unusually common in the Inuit, compared with people in Europe or China. Several of these variations occurred within a cluster of genes that direct construction of enzymes called fatty acid desaturases. (The genes are called FADS, for short….) Even more intriguing was the fact that one of these gene variants was present in almost every Inuit in the study. It is much less common in other populations: About a quarter of Chinese people have it, compared with just 2 percent of Europeans. Natural selection is the only known way this gene variant could have become so common in the Inuit. Dr. Nielsen said this adaptation might have arisen as long ago as 20,000 years, when the ancestors of the Inuit were living in the Beringia region, which straddles Alaska and Siberia…. The adaptation did more than just change blood levels of fatty acids, the scientists found. Inuit who carried two copies of the variant gene were on average an inch shorter and 10 pounds lighter than those without a copy.” – orig. research article: Greenlandic Inuit show genetic signatures of diet and climate adaptation. see also Your Genes Are What You Eat from razib.

Height-reducing variants and selection for short stature in Sardinia“[K]nown height-decreasing alleles are at systematically higher frequencies in Sardinians than would be expected by genetic drift. The findings are consistent with selection for shorter stature in Sardinia and a suggestive human example of the proposed ‘island effect’ reducing the size of large mammals.” – h/t andrew sabisky!

Are humans still evolving? Yes, both globally and locally. – from jerry coyne.

5 key facts about the nuclear DNA from Sima de los Huesos“If confirmed, the results will push back the H. sapiens-H. neanderthalensis ancestor beyond 400 KYA. Meyer suggested that the ancestors of H. sapiens could have diverged from the branch leading to neandertals and denisovans 550 K to 765 K years ago. It may be possible that H. sapiens evolved in western Eurasia and later migrated back into Africa. The fossils from Europe, Asia and Africa in the 400 Ka. period are physically very diverse and may represent multiple species, only one of which could be the ancestor of today’s humans. For example, Chris Stringer thinks it may be needed to look at Homo antecessor and not Homo heidelbergensis as our last common ancestor with neandertals.”

New DNA tests on ancient Denisovan people ‘shows them occupying Altai cave 170,000 years ago’“Prehistoric Siberians lived in Denisova Cave earlier than scientists realised – new claim based on state-of-the-art technology.” – h/t paleoanthropology!

Origins, admixture and founder lineages in European Roma“We found a set of founder lineages, present in the Roma and virtually absent in the non-Roma, for the maternal (H7, J1b3, J1c1, M18, M35b, M5a1, U3, and X2d) and paternal (I-P259, J-M92, and J-M67) genomes. This lineage classification allows us to identify extensive gene flow from non-Roma to Roma groups, whereas the opposite pattern, although not negligible, is substantially lower (up to 6.3%). Finally, the exact haplotype matching analysis of both uniparental lineages consistently points to a Northwestern origin of the proto-Roma population within the Indian subcontinent.”

Why I’m sceptical about the idea of genetically inherited trauma“A recent scientific paper claiming that the children of Holocaust survivors showed evidence of inherited stress was deeply flawed – here’s why.”

Population genetic differentiation of height and body mass index across Europe“Here we find that many independent loci contribute to population genetic differences in height and body mass index (BMI) in 9,416 individuals across 14 European countries.”

North-South divide, Japanese style – from dr. james thompson.

Genetics of IQ and lifespan and Genius? Avoid rare functional genes and Heritability of Specific Cognitive Abilities and Schizophrenia and cognitive decline and g for Latinos and White matter efficiency predicts women’s IQ, but not men’s – all also from dr. james thompson!

SNP hits on cognitive ability from 300k individuals – from steve hsu. h/t holtz!

Do smart girls postpone first sex? and Do women find bright men sexy? – and even MORE from dr. james thompson!! whew!

Green Arabia’s key role in human evolution“Scientists have been illuminating the vital role played by the Arabian Peninsula in humankind’s exodus from Africa. Far from being a desert, the region was once covered by lush vegetation and criss-crossed by rivers, providing rich hunting grounds for our ancestors.”

The UK10K project identifies rare variants in health and disease – h/t kevin mitchell!

Genetics of aggressive behavior: An overview – h/t brian boutwell!

Sons of the Soil, Migrants, and Civil War“In nearly a third of ethnic civil wars since 1945, the conflict develops between members of a regional ethnic group that considers itself to be the indigenous “sons of the soil” and recent migrants from other parts of the country.” – h/t whyvert!

It’s finally out: The big review paper on the lack of political diversity in social psychology“Psychologists have demonstrated the value of diversity – particularly diversity of viewpoints – for enhancing creativity, discovery, and problem solving. But one key type of viewpoint diversity is lacking in academic psychology in general and social psychology in particular: political diversity.” – from jonathan haidt.

The genetics of alcohol dependence: Twin and SNP-based heritability, and genome-wide association study based on AUDIT scores – h/t amir sariaslan!

Chronotype Associations with Depression and Anxiety Disorders in a Large Cohort Study – h/t emily deans! who tweeted: “‘Morning people’ less likely to be depressed in this large and relatively thorough observational study.” – (morning people depress me. (~_^) )

The Hormone That Bonds Humans to Dogs – h/t old whig! who tweeted: “Evolutionary change is faster than we think? Case study: oxytocin.”

Does the Gender of Offspring Affect Parental Political Orientation? – h/t ben southwood! who tweeted: “Studies on offspring gender & political orientation plagued by publication bias; actually there’s no relationship.”

Do Angry Birds Make for Angry Children? A Meta-Analysis of Video Game Influences on Children’s and Adolescents’ Aggression, Mental Health, Prosocial Behavior, and Academic Performance“Overall, results from 101 studies suggest that video game influences on increased aggression (r = .06), reduced prosocial behavior (r = .04), reduced academic performance (r = −.01), depressive symptoms (r = .04), and attention deficit symptoms (r = .03) are minimal.” – h/t joseph schwartz!

Ancient campfires show early population numbers [in australia]“ANU archaeologist Alan Williams used radio carbon dating technology to examine charcoal dates from more than 1000 prehistoric campfires and based on this he says populations appear to have increased steadily until 25,000 years ago…. After this initial increase, he says, population levels remained steady or even declined from 25,000 years ago, during the more arid Last Glacial Maximum (25,000 to 13,000 years ago) when temperatures were about ten degrees cooler…. Campfire numbers began to grow again 13,000 years ago when the northern wet season re-emerged.”

Aboriginal ‘memories’ of Australia’s coastline go back more than 7,000 years

History became legend, legend became myth: Crater Lake – h/t razib! who tweeted: “8,000 year old explosion preserved in folk memory of klamath indians?”

Ancient Script Spurs Rethinking of Historic ‘Backwater’“At a temple site in the Republic of Georgia, letters carved in stone could change the way we see the development of writing.”

bonus: Microbiologists Keep Finding Giant Viruses in Melting Permafrost

bonus bonus: Ancient Cats Drove Ancient Dogs to Extinction – woof? (O.O)

bonus bonus bonus: this year’s ig nobel mathematics prize went to the authors of The Case of Moulay Ismael – Fact or Fancy?“Textbooks on evolutionary psychology and biology cite the case of the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty (1672–1727) who was supposed to have sired 888 children. This example for male reproduction has been challenged and led to a still unresolved discussion. The scientific debate is shaped by assumptions about reproductive constraints which cannot be tested directly — and the figures used are sometimes arbitrary. Therefore we developed a computer simulation which tests how many copulations per day were necessary to reach the reported reproductive outcome…. The results indicate that Moulay Ismael could have achieved this high reproductive success. A comparison of the three conception models highlights the necessity to consider female sexual habits when assessing fertility across the cycle. We also show that the harem size needed is far smaller than the reported numbers.” (~_^)

and the tweet of the week!:


(note: comments do not require an email. moulay ismael the bloodthirsty!)