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Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall


Friday, July 21, 2017

On an Archaic hominin introgression in Africa and an earlier date for the peopling of Australia


Today I have come across two brand new and very interesting papers:


The first one tells us that modern Homo sapiens reached Australia much earlier than formerly believed: 65,000 years ago. (Chris Clarkson et al., "Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago", Nature 547, 306–310, 20 July 2017, doi:10.1038/nature22968).


The authors point out that "This evidence sets a new minimum age for the arrival of humans in Australia, the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa, and the subsequent interactions of modern humans with Neanderthals and Denisovans.".


The other paper by Duo Xu et al ("Archaic hominin introgression in Africa contributes to functional salivary MUC7 genetic variation", Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2017; DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msx206.) tells us that an archaic hominin interbred with sub-Saharan Africans.


This is an extremely interesting conjecture which the authors state as follows "...we conclude that a divergent MUC7 haplotype likely originated in an unknown African hominin population and introgressed into ancestors of modern Africans...".


This introgression could explain why there is so much diversity in sub-Saharan Africans: they got it from an archaic human (I posted this same idea Here, where I wrote: "This leads me to ask, what if African heterozygosity was enriched by recent admixture with other hominins in Africa? an inflow of different relic alleles elevated African diversity above that of non-Africans" and Here where I wrote: "These ancient African humans carried the A00 lineage in them, mated with AMH (within the last 195 ky)").


The second paper is interesting and I will post on it later because it has some "orthodoxy" influencing its hypothesis, see this for instance, where the authors look into the introgressed halpogroup, (E):


"However, introgression of haplogroup E from Neanderthals or Denisovans is unlikely, because haplogroup E is exclusively found in sub- Saharan African populations, whereas introgression events between Neanderthals or Denisovans with modern humans happened after modern humans migrated out of Africa (Vernot and Akey 2014) (Figure 5A, Figure S5). As such, we hypothesize that an archaic hominin, at that time still roaming in Africa, contributed haplogroup E to the ancestors of extant Africans."


They are assuming that H. sapiens originated in Africa and moved "Out" of Africa. If they had move "Into" Africa from Eurasia, then Neanderthals or Denisovans could have been the origin of the haplogroup...



Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2014 by Austin Whittall © 

Friday, July 7, 2017

An even older Out of Africa event (270kya)!!


A paper published in Nature, by Cosimo Posth et al, published in Nature looks into the odd discrepancy in the age of the split between Modern Human and Neanderthal genomes


The date of the split between humans and Neanderthals differs when you consider their nuclear or their mtDNA:


  • Nuclear DNA says that humans and Nearnderthals split some 765,000 to 550,000 years ago
  • Mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA says we split 365,000 to 400,000 years ago

I believe that discrepancies are what makes science leap forward (like the problems caused by the "ether" theory that led to relativity and quantum physics). And a gap like this of several hundreds of thousands of years is a big discrepancy. Either the dating is all wrong and has to be reviewed (ie. mutation rates and so forth), or the current ideas on the migration and origin of Homo sapiens are incorrect.

The paper looks into the mtDNA extracted a "complete mtDNA of an archaic femur from the Hohlenstein–Stadel (HST) cave in southwestern Germany. HST carries the deepest divergent mtDNA lineage that splits from other Neanderthals ∼270,000 years ago..."

This date of 270 kya is actualy the average, the real divergence date between HST and all other Neanderthals (95% HPD) is between 316 and 219 kya. The Altai Neanderthals split from the other Neanderthals some ∼160,000 years ago (95% HPD of 199 - 125 kya).


This paper tries to explain the genetic incongruence of Sima de los Huesos (see my post Sima de los Huesos remains, Neanderthals, Denisovans and their nuclear and mtDNA), the remains from Sima de los Huesos in Spain which are 430 ky old, have mtDNA that resembles that of Denisovans more closely than that of the Neanderthals. But, their nuclear DNA is more similar to that of Neanderthals than to Denisovan nuclear DNA.

The authors write (Bold is mine) that the nuclear DNA (nDNA) "... from the Sima de los Huesos site... confirmed their closer affinity to the Neanderthal lineage, suggesting that at least by ∼430 ka, Neanderthals and Denisovans had already diverged. However, in contrast to genome-wide data, the Sima de los Huesos mtDNA was found to branch off with the deeply divergent Denisovan mtDNA lineage. The phylogenetic discrepancies could be reconciled if the mtDNA of early Neanderthals was indeed Denisovan-like and was subsequently replaced by a more derived mtDNA lineage.".

This "derived mtDNA" got into the Neanderthals through " a genetic introgression event from African hominins into the early Neanderthal population that gave rise to the ‘Late Pleistocene’ Neanderthal mtDNA lineage".

This introgression took place long ago, and came from " an African source, which we constrain taking place more than ∼270 ka". In other words the paper suggests an Out of Africa event over 270,000 years ago which admixed human mtDNA into Neanderthals, mtDNA which replaced the older mtDNA -i.e. Denisovan and Sima de los Huesos hominin, with a new lineage, the "African mtDNA that evolved into the Late Pleistocene Neanderthal mtDNA type". And this "new" mtDNA spread from the HST Neanderthal in Germany to all others, including Sidron in Spain and eastwards all the way to Altai. Thousands of kilometers from the Atlantic to Siberia.

Furthermore, they estimate that "if Ne (effective population) was <5,000 units, a mean temporal interval of 300 ka is sufficient for an incoming mtDNA lineage below 0.1% in frequency to drift up to fixation." in other words, a very small initial input of "African genes".
But looking at this theory with a critical eye, we must point out that Neanderthals were spread out over a very wide area, which makes it very difficult for this replacement to take place in the whole population.

Furthermore a different explanation can be found: if modern humans were already outside of Africa i.e. in Asia, and they mixed with the Neanderthals outside of Africa -no Africans involved in the introgression. They would have had plenty of time to admix over a wide area, and this would also explain why there was an Ancient gene flow from early modern humans into Eastern Neanderthals 100,000 years ago as suggested by Martin Kuhlwilm et al, in Nature, Feb. 2016. DOI:10.1038/nature16544.

So instead of suggesting an earlier migration (it actually took place 1.8 Mya when Homo erectus left Africa for Asia) why not think about H. sapiens living in Eurasia and mixing with Neanderthals?

I wonder how this ties in with the Oldest Homo sapiens remains dating back to 315,000 years ago, found in Morocco?
 
Sources

(1) Deeply divergent archaic mitochondrial genome provides lower time boundary for African gene flow into Neanderthals, Cosimo Posth, Christoph Wißing, Keiko Kitagawa, Luca Pagani, Laura van Holstein, Fernando Racimo, Kurt Wehrberger, Nicholas J. Conard, Claus Joachim Kind, Hervé Bocherens & Johannes Krause. Nature Communications 8, Article number: 16046 (2017). doi:10.1038/ncomms16046.


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2017 by Austin Whittall ©

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Homo naledi is far too young...


Homo naledi, a very primitive looking hominid, once believed to be a very ancient relative of modern humans, has been dated to a very recent period, in this paper (The age of Homo naledi and associated sediments in the Rising Star Cave, South Africa, by Paul HGM Dirks et al., DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.24231, published May 9, 2017 Cite as eLife 2017;6:e24231) some 236 to 335 kya. And the abstract concludes:


"...We have constrained the depositional age of Homo naledi to a period between 236 ka and 335 ka. These age results demonstrate that a morphologically primitive hominin, Homo naledi, survived into the later parts of the Pleistocene in Africa, and indicate a much younger age for the Homo naledi fossils than have previously been hypothesized based on their morphology."


Primitive


A second paper (New fossil remains of Homo naledi from the Lesedi Chamber, South Africa, John Hawks, et al., DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.24232 Published May 9, 2017 Cite as eLife 2017;6:e24232) points out its really primitive crania, which has a smaller size than that of H. habilis. And this creature lived side by side with our purported African ancestors!


H. naledi (R) seems to have shared southern Africa with distinct human species, such as Kabwe man (L)

Apparently there are two theories to explain H. naledi:


  1. It is a ancient relative of H. habilis and retained its primitive morphology in a branch that survived into the times of modern humans.
  2. It split later on, after H. habilis, maybe from Homo erectus and reverted into a primitive form.

Could these primitive hominids have admixed with Africans and enriched their genome with "diversity"? adding genes and variety that did not appear out of Africa because H. naledi were constrained to their Sub Saharan location?


An out of Africa origin of modern humans Asian (or even, an American) origin for modern humans, who later reached Africa and admixed with H. naledi would surely yield the current genetic variability.


Since Naledi is so young, perhaps viable DNA could be obtained and sequenced. Who can tell what that information will tell us!


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2017 by Austin Whittall © 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

America peopled 130,000 years ago


Some very good news: atlastsome scientific evidence supporting an early =(130000 years ago) peopling of America; read more read more·


This is the link to the paper in Nature: Link to paper. And this is the abstract (I highlighted the Bold text):


"The earliest dispersal of humans into North America is a contentious subject, and proposed early sites are required to meet the following criteria for acceptance: (1) archaeological evidence is found in a clearly defined and undisturbed geologic context; (2) age is determined by reliable radiometric dating; (3) multiple lines of evidence from interdisciplinary studies provide consistent results; and (4) unquestionable artefacts are found in primary context1, 2. Here we describe the Cerutti Mastodon (CM) site, an archaeological site from the early late Pleistocene epoch, where in situ hammerstones and stone anvils occur in spatio-temporal association with fragmentary remains of a single mastodon (Mammut americanum). The CM site contains spiral-fractured bone and molar fragments, indicating that breakage occured while fresh. Several of these fragments also preserve evidence of percussion. The occurrence and distribution of bone, molar and stone refits suggest that breakage occurred at the site of burial. Five large cobbles (hammerstones and anvils) in the CM bone bed display use-wear and impact marks, and are hydraulically anomalous relative to the low-energy context of the enclosing sandy silt stratum. 230Th/U radiometric analysis of multiple bone specimens using diffusion–adsorption–decay dating models indicates a burial date of 130.7 ± 9.4 thousand years ago. These findings confirm the presence of an unidentified species of Homo at the CM site during the last interglacial period (MIS 5e; early late Pleistocene), indicating that humans with manual dexterity and the experiential knowledge to use hammerstones and anvils processed mastodon limb bones for marrow extraction and/or raw material for tool production. Systematic proboscidean bone reduction, evident at the CM site, fits within a broader pattern of Palaeolithic bone percussion technology in Africa3, 4, 5, 6, Eurasia7, 8, 9 and North America10, 11, 12. The CM site is, to our knowledge, the oldest in situ, well-documented archaeological site in North America and, as such, substantially revises the timing of arrival of Homo into the Americas."


Source
A 130,000-year-old archaeological site in southern California, USA Steven R. Holen Thomas A. Deméré Daniel C. Fisher Richard Fullagar James B. Paces George T. Jefferson Jared M. Beeton Richard A. Cerutti Adam N. Rountrey Lawrence Vescera Kathleen A. Holen. Nature 544, 479–483 (27 April 2017) doi:10.1038/nature22065



Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2017 by Austin Whittall © 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Fake news on Bigfoot - just look at the photo!


I couldn't help sharing this "article" with you, which supposedly shows a bigfoot in its phot. A hoax, no doubt. This kind of unprofessional articles harms the cause of those who try to be serious and scientific.



The image is so crude and the hoax is so evident, that it is embarrassing.



Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2017 by Austin Whittall © 

Denisovans, Inuit and Native Americans


An article, which you can read here Arctic Inuit, Native American cold adaptations may originate from extinct hominids from Dec. 2016, tells us something about the Inuit, Amerindians and Denisovans or some other now extinct archaic hominid... (the original paper is here).


Two genes, TBX15 and WARS2 seem to be critical in how the body deals with fat in cold climates to generat heat. The article points out the following:


" The Inuit DNA sequence in this region matches very well with the Denisovan genome, and it is highly differentiated from other present-day human sequences, though we can't discard the possibility that the variant was introduced from another archaic group whose genomes we haven't sampled yet," said Fernando Racimo, lead author of the study.
The authors found that the variant is present at low-to-intermediate frequencies throughout Eurasia, and at especially high frequencies in the Inuits and Native American populations, but almost absent in Africa. TBX15 is a gene known to affect the human body's response to cold, and is associated with a number of traits related to body fat distribution. The authors speculate that the archaic variant may have been beneficial to modern humans during their expansion throughout Siberia and across Beringia, into the Americas.
"


Allow me to suggest another option: the archaic variant evolved in Homo erectus in high latitude Asia, they had reached this part of the world at least 1 million years ago. They hunted big game (mammoths and hairy rhino lived there and did so for millions of years). What would stop them from following the heards into America? Thanks to this adaptation they could. And this is why, their descent, the Amerindians carry it. Later after Homo sapiens evolved in America, it back migrated into Siberia and Eurasia and reached -though diluted- Africa when it was peopled by modern H. sapiens from Asia and America.


This explains the cline from a peak in America to a low in Africa. As you moved into hotter regions it became less of an advantadge (actualy a fatty layer in a hot climate is a disadvantage).


Sources
Archaic Adaptive Introgression in TBX15/WARS2 Fernando Racimo David Gokhman Matteo Fumagalli Amy Ko Torben Hansen Ida Moltke Anders Albrechtsen Liran Carmel Emilia Huerta-Sánchez Rasmus Nielsen Mol Biol Evol (2017) 34 (3): 509-524. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msw283 Published: 22 December 2016



Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2017 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Early man in Northern Yukon 300,000 years ago


This paper dating back to the 1980s: Stratigraphic, Sedimentological and Faunal Evidence for the Occurrence of Pre-Sangamonian artifacts in Northern Yukon by Jopling, AV, WN Irving, and BF Beebe. 1981.Arctic 34 (1): 3-33, reports evidence of ancient human presence in Yukon - Alaska. An excerpt from the paper is very interesting:


"... It is interesting that these early human inhabitants predate the extinction in Europe and western Asia of most or all populations of Homo sapiens neandertalensis. Indeed, if Unit 1 is of Illinoian = Riss age, these artefacts probably are older than Mousterian cultures and Neandertal Man. Elsewhere, Irving (1978a, b) has commented on a plausible relationship of these early cultures to the Early Palaeolithic of the Far East, ar elationship anticipated by Chard (e.g. 1963) and more recently by Rouse (19801, although terminologies differ. Bryan (1978) has published an unusual human calotte from Brazil which beckons renewed attention in this connection. In a recent announcement Chia et al. (1979) describe a large collection of vertebrate fossils and stone artefacts found near Hsuchiayao in Yangkao County, Shansi, China. They attribute the entire collection to an age comparable with that of the Riss (Illinoian) glaciation. The associated human skeletal remains are said to be intermediate between Homo erectus and Homo neandertalensis (sic). Elsewhere Medvedev (1979) appears to have documented the northward progress ofHomo sp. as far as the Aldan Plateau in Siberia, 200 000 or more years ago. We must now, therefore, entertain seriously the possibility that a variant of Homo erectus reached the Western Hemisphere, as recently suggested by Yoshizaki (pers. comm., 1981). If true, this must profoundly affect both studies of the origin of Homo sapiens and studies of New World populations..."


For map lovers, This map shows the site.


1981 was ages ago!!! I was in my 20s!!, the world was quite different, wasn't it? No internet, cellphones, WiFi, I was programming in Fortran in University! The so called good old days... like another life ago!


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2017 by Austin Whittall © 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Into Africa, some proof on an Out Of America origin of modern Homo sapiens


Regarding my previous post where I mentioned a paper on the non-African origin of modern humans, I have come across another very interesting paper: "Explaining worldwide patterns of human genetic variation using a coalescent-based serial founder model of migration outward from Africa" by Michael DeGiorgio, Mattias Jakobsson and Noah A. Rosenberg (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Sep 22; 106(38): 16057–16062. Published online 2009 Aug 17. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0903341106) which offers an interesting model which can explain the greater diversity of Africans and at the same time make them the "most recent" humans instead of the oldest ones.


The usual argument for an Out of Africa origin of Homo Sapiens is the higher diversity in Africa versus that of non-African populations. A typical example used as proof is the graph showing how Heterozygosity decreases with the distance to Africa (there are countless of these on the internet, with the Y axis showing Heterozygosity and the X axis showing the distance from Addis Abbaba), below is one of them:


A typical heterozygosity vs. distance to Ethiopia. From Fig. 2 in [1]

Notice the negative gradient of the graph (shown by the dashed line in the figure -Fig. B, on the right). Heterozygosity falls from left to right.


The paper by DeGiorgio, Jakobsson and Rosenberg which caught my attention explores a models to explain this fact. In doing so they analyze different alternatives. And the one they discard because it does not fit the current idea of an Out of Africa model, is precisely the one that explains the data, if you accept a non-African origin of mankind. Allow me to explain:


Archaic Persistence Model


The team developed this "archaic persistence model" in which an archaic population evolved-mutated and originates modern humans (Homo sapiens). And as this first original and most ancient Homo sapiens population expands outwards from its homeland, it spreads gradually forming colonies which move into a "collection of preexisting archaic populations". For instance Denisovans, Neanderthals or even surviving yet unknown Chinese hominds -or Homo erectus descendants...


In the words of the authors, this is what they observed as the populations moved away from the original nucleous, the first modern human population:

"Heterozygosity increases, LD decreases, and the ancestral allele frequency spectrum slope increases with increasing colony number. These results can be understood from the fact that in the long time since the initial divergence, the K archaic populations have enough time to develop distinctive localized variants. As the migration wave travels through them, it accumulates diversity, gathering new variants from each population through which it passes. Thus, heterozygosity increases with increasing colony number in the same way that it increases in the archaic admixture model at the population in which admixture occurs. The difference between models lies in the fact that in the archaic persistence model, archaic admixture occurs in every population, so that heterozygosity increases at each step rather than at a single location. This occurrence of archaic admixture at each step also explains the decrease in LD and increase in the slope of the ancestral allele frequency spectrum that occur at each step...


In other words they observed that if the original, the "first real" human group, was in Africa, as we moved further away from there we should find more heterozygosity, which we don't. Hence the model is wrong and despite having originated in Africa we did not go through this type of admixture.


But lets just look at this with a more open mind:


Turn it around!


However if the original home of modern humans (Homo sapiens) was in America and not Africa, then, as they migrated outwards from America, into Asia, Oceania, Europe and went through each of the archaic populations in the old world, adding diversity and finally reached Africa mixing with the archaics there, the heterozygosity would be lowest in America and grow towards Africa, which is exactly what their model finds and which coincides with the observed heterozygosity cline in modern humans.


So It all makes sense if you invert the origin of the first humans: form Africa, to America.


Below is the image showing how heterozygosity grows as you move away from the original H. sapiens population if you assume the Archaic Persistence Model, the authors discard it because the actual observed heterozygosity falls as you move away from Africa:


From Fig 6 in DeGiorgio, Jakobsson and Rosenberg, adapted by A. Whittall

Now let's turn this same figure around and the result is a graph with a negative gradient which is exactly the same as the first graph we used in this paper (the distance to A. Abbaba & heterozygosity):


Same figure as above but we change the location of the first modern humans
Adapted by Austin Whittall

As an engineer, I sometimes get the feeling that Anthropology and those who study the origins of humanity are like the late 1800s Physicists who despite all the evidence kept on pushing the notion of ether or fiddle with the data to uphold classic mechanics. It took Einstein and Plank to change the paradigm with their Relativity and Quantum theories. Something similar took place in the 1500s, with Copernicus explaining with graceful simplicity the movement of the planets, doing away with the complex Ptolomean system. A shift in mindset is needed to look at the same data to find the necessary changes and to avoid adhering to theories that contradict that data.


Sources


[1] Verdu P, Pemberton TJ, Laurent R, Kemp BM, Gonzalez-Oliver A, Gorodezky C, et al. (2014) Patterns of Admixture and Population Structure in Native Populations of Northwest North America. PLoS Genet 10(8): e1004530. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004530


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2014 by Austin Whittall © 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

An intersting paper on the NON AFRICAN orign of mankind


Seems it is an Out of Asia after all...

This is a very interesting -at least it goes against the grain of most orthodox papers, positing an out of Asia orign of mankind- paper: WORLD SCIENCE EN ROUTE FROM OUT-OF-AFRICA TO OUT-OF-AMERICA: FIRST STOP IS OUT-OF-ASIA.


By the way, Happy 2017!! I have the feeling that this year will bring us surprises galore, and not only from some Neanderthals (with my apologies to our great and dignified ancestors) who have recently taken up their lodging in Washington DC.


May reason, sensible discussion of ideas, open-mindedness and above all, Western values such as respect, freedom to dissent, freedom of religion, thought and above all, freedom of speech, prevail above any populist sleazy politicians and their demagoguery. On both sides of the Anglo-Saxon Atlantic (i.e. Brexit supporters). Respect, chivalry and rationality must prevail over bigotry, prejudice and Medieval witch-hunting. Racism belongs with the 1940s fascists, not in the XXIst century.


And if you post any insidious comments I will publish them even if I disagree -of course-, no foul language please.


Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2014 by Austin Whittall © 
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