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, February 28, 2014

Language, Neanderthals and America

Peoples genes and their languages may not share a common origin. As an example of this we have the Portuguese language which is spoken by the Portuguese (with European mtDNA) and Amazonian Brazilians (with Amerindian mtDNA) or Angolans (with African mtDNA) or even some former Macao inhabitants (with Chinese mtDNA).

Of course the changes brought on by the European sixteenth century's discovery and conquest of the World was quite unprecedented due to its global scale (the conquerors were mostly men -hence the lack of European mtDNA among the current local ex-colonials- but, they did impose their homeland's language on the locals).

There were similar (scaled down) migrations in historic and prehistoric times, so it is quite complicated to tag genes to language. However L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza has been doing this since the mid 1960s. Today's paper is inspired by his work, while I was re-reading a very old article in a 1989 Scientific American issue dealing with mtDNA and languages.

Languages of the World

There are several thousand languages dispersed across the globe, some are mega-languages spoken by hundreds of millions (Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Portuguese) others are on the verge of extinction. And all originated from those spoken by the first Modern humans to appear in Africa some 150 kya.

The map below shows a rough grouping of the languages spoken around the world.

language map

As we can see, they can be grouped into four large clusters (based on similarities and shared origins):

  1. Eurasiatic. This is a "superfamily" spanning most of Asia and Europe.
  2. African, which combines the African Languages.
  3. Isolated languages, some “isolated languages” such as Dravidian in India and the Kartvelian languages in the Southern Caucasus.
  4. Rest of the World, whith the different languages spoken in Southeast Asia, Australia, New Guinea and the Americas

American Languages

You know that an Early peopling of America is my pet subject, so the large diversity of languages found in America and their potential links (or lack of them) with the purported Asian homeland of American Natives is something to look into.

If American Natives originated in Eastern Asia or Siberia, you would expect them to have languages similar or closely related to those currently found in those parts of Asia.

Well, it is not excactly like that: some North American natives speak languages that are close to Asian languages, but the majority of the Amerindians, from all over America, do not.

Native American languages form three distinct groups:

  1. Eskimo Aleut. Spoken in the northernmost part of America (around the Arctic and in Western Alaska). These are, according to theory, the most recent arrivals in America.
  2. Na-Dene speakers. These are only found in some areas of North America (whose people speak Na-Dene). Their languages form part of a Super-family known as "Dene-Caucasian", which spans Asia. In our map above, it is shown in yellow.
  3. Amerindian, shown in the map in turquoise color, spanning most of the Americas.

Dene-Caucasian languages

The Na-Dene language belongs to the Dene-Caucasian superfamily which includes those speaking Sino-Tibetan (the Chinese and Tibetans), Yeniseian languages (a small strip along Yenisei River in Central Siberia) and some other isolated groups:

  • The Basques in Spain and France. Which are the westernmost members of the group. They are particular people in many ways. Language is one of them.
  • The Caucasians in the Caucasus area. Both Basque and Caucasian are closer to each other than to the other Dene-Caucasian languages. By the way there are other non Dene-Caucasian languages in the Caucasus, such as Kartvelian. Clearly this area was an area of admixture and communication (Middle East and South Asia with the Russian - Ucranian plains to the north)
  • Burushaski, spoken in Northern Pakistan. It is an isolate language is close to one spoken by the Yeniseian people. Both of which are closer to each other than to the Sino-Tibetan and Na-Dene langauges (both of which are also closely related to each other).

The fact that these languages are "scattered" across a wide swath of Europe, Asia and America means that they probably occupied a vast area and that later (please see the map above), people speaking Uralic, Indo-European, Chukchi - Kamchatkans, Altaic and Eskimo-Aleut, moved into their current areas displacing or replacing the original or ancestral Dene-Caucasian speakers.

Amerindian Languages

Since they occupy most of the Continent, especially the southern cul-de-sac, they were very likely the first people into America, predating both Na-Dene speakers and Eskimo Aleuts.

The three clear-cut language divisions in America led Greenberg [2] to postulate a three wave migration theory to explain the peopling of Americas: first came the South and North American Amerindians. They were followed by the Na-Dene pople (Navajo, Apache, Athabaskans) and finally the Eskimo-Aleuts.

There is some genetic corroboration of this theory since Eskimos are mostly Q1a6 (M323*- NWT01) Y chromosome haplogroup (Y hg) which is not found among Amerindians, while C3b Y hg is frequent among the Na-Dene but infrequent among the other Amerindians.

On the matrilineal side: D3 mtDNA is found among Eskimos while D2a is frequent among Na-Dene, Tlingit and Aleutians. Na-Dene, Aleuts and Eskimos are also A2a. None of those haplogroups are found among the other native people.

There are also notable differences between the three group's HLA (the loci of genes which encode for major histocompatibility complex in humans and as such have an important role in the immune system).

In a previous post (An Early Peopling of America) I pointed out that "...Amerindian HLA harbors a great diversity and is markedly different from that of the rest of the world; it clusters separately from all other global populations (especially Asians and, as expected, North American Na-Dene and Inuit)." (Inuit = Eskimo).

The variety of Amerindian languages which are quite unique and, unrelated to others, plus those distinct markers indicates that the first humans to enter America were not related to the Dene-Caucasians or those people currently inhabiting Western Siberia or Asia.

Could these languages be linked to a hypothetical archaic human language or even a Neanerthal language?

Let us go back to the Dene-Caucasian languages, which seem to predate the other ones in Asia.

The isolate Buruchakski language spoken in Northern Pakistan's mountain areas is quite unlike other languages. It has picked up Indo European traits due to its long co-existence in close contact with speakers of those languages, but it retains its unique features.

It is closer to the Yeniseian speakers than to the Sino-Tibetans, suggesting that there is an East - West split among the Dena-Caucasian speakers (Sino-Tibetans and Na-Dene in the East, and Basques, Caucasians, Yeniseians and Buruchakskis in the West).

Furthermore, the Buruchakski language is anciente; according to Bengston and Blazek: [4] "There is evidence that early Indo-Aryan was influenced by Bur (or perhaps a wider ranging Burushic family) as its speakers entered the Indian subcontinent by way of the Hindukush and Pamir regions...", they also suggest that there was a "remote ancestor (Borean) common to the ancestor of Indo-European (Nostratic or Euroasiatic) and the ancestor of Buruchakski (Dene Caucasian)".

It is clear that Buruchakski entered Northern Pakistan from the North, maybe from central Siberia, but since this route was blocked by Ice Age Glaciers during the period of Neanderthal - Modern Human contact, we can assume that they had not yet reached their current homeland, and that their ancestors lived further north, in the area of Yenisei and Altai.

Ancient Humans or even Neanderthal language?

The area covered by the Dene-Caucasian language reminds me of the Neanderthal "homeland" (see my post on this here), where I posted the map that I reproduce below (with some changes regarding Neanderthal's later dispersion):

Neanderthal dispersion map
Map showing area occupied by Neanderthals and those speaking Dene-Caucasian languages. Copyright © 2014 by Austin Whittall

Neanderthals occupied a large swath of Eurasia before modern humans left Africa. The "invading" Homo sapiens (blue arrows -map above) must have put the Neanderthal on the move, or perhaps they too were already moving Norteast (red dotted arrows) prompted by the same global change that prodded Modern humans out of Africa.

Could Amerindian languages or "Dene Caucasian" languages be related by this hypothetic ancient remote ancestor Borean, or an even older language?, a Neanderthal language.

Let's suppose that Neanderthals spoke a language which we can call "Nenderspeak". It moved with them as they pushed into Siberia and as they shrunk into the corners and inhospitable areas of Europe as a consequence of modern human's onslaught into that continent. This would be similar to the Gaelic speaking Celts of Britain and France, who retreated into the "peninsulas" of Normandy, Wales, Cornwall and Scotland when the Anglo-Saxons invaded their territories.

Modern humans spoke a different language (or languages), which originated the other Euro-Asiatic languages: Altaic and Uralic which occupied most of Northern, Central and Eastern Siberia as well as Eastern and Northern Scandinavia. While Indo-European would spread out from India across the rest of Southwestern Eurasia.

But who spoke "Borean"? could ther have been more than one wave of humans? some speaking "Borean", the others speaking the ancestor of the other Eurasian languages?

Y haplogroup O and C roughly covers the area of Borean (Dene-Caucasian) speakers, while Y Hg J, G, I, L, H, R and N cover the rest of Eurasia. On the mtDNA side, Eurasians are mostly U, H and J mtDNA all descended from the N line, while the Boreans are M line (D, C).

This indicates that there were two groups of humans with their set of languages, coinciding with the N, M mtDNA haplogroup split after they left Africa. Maybe the M group spread first and was later replaced (in the West) by N lineages (this explains the Caucasus and Basque pockets of Borean speakers).

Meanwhile, as I mentioned in my previous post (An Early Peopling of America) here, the Neanderthals "moved east from Central Asia expanding into China during MIS 3 times -29 to 58 Kya. [5], as attested by a high presence of Neanderthal ancestry in Eastern Asians [6]...". The map above shows this migration with the solid red arrows.

Did their hypothetic "Neanderspeak" language move with them into China and Tibet, and up along the Yenisei River valley (red oval in map)?

More introgression ocurred when modern (M mtDNA) Humans advancing behind the Neanderthals entered Siberia and, crossing India and Southern Asia, entered China.

Their Borean language evolved in each of these locations, becoming Dene-Caucasian. Northeast Asia was vast and empty except for the few Neanderthal that lived there, hunting the big prey.

Only much later (5-10 kya) would the ancestors of the Burushics cross the Himalayan passes and occupy Pakistan, only to be pushed back as the Indoeuropean people spread out from India across Europe, displacing and replacing the Dene-Caucasian language speakers.

This explains the distribution of Asian and European languages quite well. But what about America?

American Languages another view

Following their game, part of the Neanderthals entered America and spread out across both North and South America. "Neanderspeak" evolved into proto-Amerindian languages.

They were followed by the ancestors of the Amerindians who did not speak "Dene-Caucasian", which based on my assumptions oulined above, hints at a N mtDNA linage and a Y hg closer to Europe than to Asia. And this is exactly what was found in the genome sequenced from a 24 Kya Homo sapiens (named MA-1) from Mal'ta in south-central Siberia:

  • Between 14 to 38% of Native American autosomal ancestry originated through a gene flow from this population. (Ancestral to Amerindians).
  • MA-1 is closer to contemporary Native Americans than to Northeast Asians. (The late arrivals speaking Altaic or Chuckchi - Kamchatkan)
  • MA-1 belongs to Y chromosome hg R; frequent in Western Eurasia and India but rare in Eastern Asia. (So their language was not "Dene-Caucasian")
  • Its mtDNA is hg U, which is not found in America, East and South Asia but is very frequent in Western Eurasia, India and North Africa. (Supports the language theory).

Further proof that ratifies the above. Today, before posting what I had written over the last few days, I read Chapter 10 of Merritt Ruhlen's On the Origin of Languages: Studies in Linguistic Taxonomy, Stanford University Press, 1994. Which I quote below:

"Finally, I will present evidence connecting the Amerind family with the Eurasiatic family. It should be pointed out that additional connections between Amerind and Eurasiatic are given in Chapter 14 herein. The etymologies given there, however, connect both Amerind and Eurasiatic with other other language families."

Amerindians have high frequency of Y hg Q which is only found outside of America among some central Asian groups (i.e. the descendants of the Mal'ta people).

Amerindian mt DNa is more complex, but South America shows a mix of both M and N origins (high frequencies of hg D and C, one evolving from M, the other from N). In North America A and B are prevalent (+75%) among the Na-Dene and Eskimos (the latest arrivals in America) and also at +50% among other Amerindians. This is surprising since both are N lineage and one would expect them to belong to an M derived Haplogroup.

Since B is also found in China (20-40%), and A (10-20%) also, and as we have already mentioned close ties between Na-Dene and Sino-Tibetan languages, it may indicate that the Na-Dene people originated in that area and had predominant N lineage mtDNA yet spoke a "M mtDNA" language, walked across an empty Western Asia into America. The last inmigrants were the Eskimos; then the Altaic and Chukchi - Kamchatkans occupied Northeastern Asia, leaving the current distribution pattern.

Now always bear in mind that the millions of natives that died between 1492 and 1600, due to smallpox, flu, war, and other diseases took their own mtDNA and Y hg lineages with them. We see a picture of what remained after those that survived re-peopled the continent. So maybe the prevalence of A and B mtDNA in the North and D & C in the South is due to this selective pressure, of adaptation to European disruption.

As proof of the above: in a previous post I mentioned the discovery of mtDNA haplogroup M in Canada, which is now compeltely absent from the New World.

Amerindian language diversity

Why are there so many languages in America. Why did they differ so much in the 15-30 ky that according to orthodoxy is the time that they have been in America while the rest of the world in more time than that evolved less languages?

They did so for the same reason that Papuan languages (another hot-spot of diversity) diversified and differ from those spoken in South East Asia or Australia (although the Papuans did so in more time: 50 ky): [7]

  • Time. We are talking about, in my opinion of +40 to 50 ky, plenty of time for languages to diversify and change.
  • Terrain. Promotes higher language density (Mountains: Papua New Guinea, Caucasus, the Andes and Rockies in America) and so does the other geographic barriers: swamps and jungles, wide rivers, deserts, vast prairies, 4 km (13,000 ft) high plateaus...
  • Tribal systems. The splintering of groups into tribal entities with unique identities, living isolated from each other promotes linguistic diversification. This contrasts with nation states that impose their language on all their subjects, thus promoting uniformity.

But what happened to the Neanderthals?

They "mixed" with modern humans, those that were the Paleoindians that were the ancestors of the Amerindian speakers. Genetic proof of introgression exists (see my paper An Early Peopling of America on this subject).

Their language "Neanderspeak" influenced the languages spoken by the invaders, shaping Amerindian languages.

However there is no exclusively American mtDNA among Amerindians a mtDNA that may have a Neanderthal origin.

The same can be said about Y haplogroups: the Lack of Neanderthal Y hg may mean extermination of Neanderthal males and mating with Neanderthal females done by Modern Humans belonging to Y hg Q.

Since Neanderthal mtDNA is absent among extant Amerindians maybe the female issue of human-Neanderthal couples were infertile and⁄or that the great bottleneck caused by disease and war during the conquest (post 1492 AD) led to the demise of ancient Neanderthal mtDNA lineages.

But all this is hypothetical. We don't know what language Neanderthals spoke (We do know that they did speak [8] and it is possible that the common ancestor of both Neanderthals and modern humans may have been capable of speech too! [8]).

There is also no solid evidence of them ever entering America or even living in Norteastern Asia, Western Siberia or Beringia.

But who knows what further genetic studies may unearth?


[1] L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza & Marcus W. Feldman, (2003). The application of molecular genetic approaches to the study of human evolution. Nature Genetics 33, 266 - 275 (2003) doi:10.1038/ng1113
[2] Greenberg JH, Turner CG, Zegura SL., (1986). The settlement of the Americas: a comparison of the linguistic, dental and genetic evidence. Curr Anthropol 1986; 27:477-498
[3] L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, P. Menozzi, A. Piazza, (1994). The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton University Press, Princeton
[4] John D. Bengtson and Václav Blazek, On the Burushaski–Indo-European hypothesis by I. Casule. Masaryk University
[5] Mishra S., Chauhan N., Singhvi A., (2013). Continuity of Microblade Technology in the Indian Subcontinent Since 45 ka: Implications for the Dispersal of Modern Humans. 01 Jul 2013. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069280
[6] Wall J., et al., (2013). Higher levels of neanderthal ancestry in East Asians than in Europeans. Genetics. 2013 May; 194(1):199-209. doi: 10.1534/genetics.112.148213
[7] Foley, William A., (1986). The Papuan languages of New Guinea Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[8] D’Anastasio R, Wroe S, Tuniz C, Mancini L, Cesana DT, et al. (2013) Micro-Biomechanics of the Kebara 2 Hyoid and Its Implications for Speech in Neanderthals. PLoS ONE 8(12): e82261. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082261

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ancient migrants into America Hg M

mtDNA extracted from the remains of two individuals found in a burial near China Lake in British Columbia, Canada, were analysed and, found to belong to haplogroup M (hg M), which has not yet been found among any extant Native American.

The bodies belonged to two related persons (they were buried in the same grave roughly 5,000 years ago, or, to be precise: the radiocarbon date was 4,950+/-170 years BP,

Haplogroup M (hg M) is very common in Asia, but unheard of among modern Amerindians. The descendants of those carrying it in prehistoric times must have all died out without any of them surviving till now.

This means that the "genetic diversity" of the Americas is much greater than previously thought (only five haplogroups: A, B, C, D and X have been found among extant natives).

They belonged to hg M but not to hg M7, M8, M9 or G.

Haplogroup M

Hg M is one of the oldest lineages, it arose from L3 (at least this is what the theory says), the ancestral group that left Africa and moved into Asia, splitting there into Hg M and Hg N, from which all non-African haplogroups later evolved.

Hg M and its is found at its highest frequencies in Asia, averaging (among all lineages about 70%).

The "pure M haplogroup accounts for roughl 60% of Indian mtDNA, nearly 50% of Southern Pakistani's and roughly 25% of Sabah (Borneo), Thailandese and Han Chinese. ForMongoliands, Uzbeks, Japanese, Papuans, Aboriginal Taiwanese it is about 12%. In Eastern Siberia it is neglibigle.

Being so prevalent in India, where it is deep and ancient (about 50 ky old) with many lineages, it is likely that it arose in the subcontinent.

Of course there are some sublineages in East Africa (M1, M23) probably due to back-migrations from Asia. This is supported by the recently discovered presence of Neanderthal DNA in East Africans (there were no Neanderthals in Africa to admix with humans there). So this indicates an Asia to Africa introgression of humans with Neanderthal genes in them, which admixed with the local Africans. M1 probably got into Africa with the same migration.

As can be seen in the map below it also spans Central, Southern and parts of Eastern Siberia. Its "offspring" include younger haplogroups (not depicted in the map): Z (Chinese and Hazara), G (North Eastern Siberia), E (Borneo and Taiwan), Q (New Guinea) and both C and D found in Asia and, also in America.

Haplogroup M global distribution.. Copyright © 20143 by Austin Whittall

Malhi and his team make a very interesting comment:

"Using genetic data from contemporary populations to infer early prehistoric demographic events is even less accurate when population history has been variable over time..." [1]

This is specially true for America, where millions of natives were exterminated by disease and war after the arrival of Europeans in the late 1400s. Whole lineages may have disappeared without a trace. We are looking at the remains of a decimated group of humans, who then filled in the void with the surviving haplogroups.

Since hg M is one of the two "first out of Africa" haplogroups, it would be interesting to identify to which lineage these China Lake remains belong to: an anciently rooted M lineage would probably mean that these people came to America long ago.

On the other hand, a lately diverged lineage may imply a more recent arrival to the New World. I am more inclined to believe the former.

Alternatively it could be that the whole mtDNA clock is completely wrong with its "timing" and that the people carrying hg M, left Africa long ago (well before 50 kya) and after moving to India, spread across Southern and Central Asia and part of them reached America (the China Lake people being descendants of those initial migrants).


[1] Malhi, Ripian et al. (2007), Mitochondrial haplogroup M discovered in prehistoric North Americans. Journal of Archaeological Science 34, 642-648. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2006.07.004

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

Friday, February 21, 2014

Spindle Whorls from South America with Labyris symbol

In a previous post, I wrote about the Hourglass or Labyris symbol in Patagonia.

Today I found it in book (a controversial book at that) written by Bernardo Graiver [1] about the presence of Jews -from Israel- in South America long before Columbus discovered America in 1492. A special thanks for my wife who found this rare book and gave it to me as a birthday gift!

It displays the image of "Spindle Whorls" (in Spanish: Tortero) decorated with the triangles joined at their apex symbol (hourglass or labyris).

Spindle Whorls with an ancient symbol: the Labyris.

What is a spindle whorl?

A spindle is a long thin wooden stake used to spin fibres (vegetable and wool) into thread, which can be then used for weaving.

A spindle whorl is a disk with a hole in its center, into which the spindle is inserted. It comes in handy as it provides a base for the thread to be spun on the spindle, it also provides a bit of mass to assist the spindle in its high speed rotary motion, ensuring threads of uniform thickness.

The whorl is then removed and the spindle used to wind the thread.

They are made out of metal, stone, ceramic and are "universal", that is, found across the globe. In South America they are mostly made from stone or ceramic. The more uniform the whorl, the finer the fibers it creates.

They were usually decorated with incised images or symboles, such as the ones shown in the image at the top of this page. Fig. 44 and Fig. 45 depict whorls from two sites in Northern Argentina, Manogasta and Beltrán in Santiago del Estero province. They were discovered by the Wagner brothers.

The same images shows (Fig. 44) the Labyris symbol found at different locations (names are on the left: Rash Hamra, Ancient Ethiopian, etc.) and the meaning, a sound, since it is actually a letter is given on the far right: "q, s, z, p... "

The author stats that both Rash Hamra and Iberians assign the figure the same sound: "q".

It is striking to find a similar symbol so far away from its Mediterranean source. It may be just a very common symbol among humans, repeatedly "discovered" over and over again across time and space.

Triangles often represent female genitalia so it may be some symbol of fertility.

But, maybe, just maybe, Graiver could have been right and it may also have been brough to America by Ancient navigators from the Middle East.


[1] Bernardo Graiver, (1980). Historia de la Humanidad en la Argentina Biblica y Biblionica Ed.Albatros Arg.

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On Amerindian HLA, Phoenicians, Neanderthals and Paracas mummies

Continuing my quest into the possible early peopling of America by Neanderthals, I have come across an interesting paper by James Guthrie (2001) [1] on Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA).

In a previous post, I wrote the following:

Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system
HLA are the loci of genes which encode for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) in humans and as such have an important role in the immune system. Ten Neanderthal HLA class I alleles have been found among humans: A*02, A*26, A*66, B*51:01/08, B*07:02/03/06, C*16:02, C*07:02.
Of these, two are found among Native Americans: The paired alleles A*02 and C*07:02. While their average global frequency is approx. 2% , the highest global frequency occurs among the Yucpa of Venezuela (26.9%), followed by Navajo, US (13.1%) and Lisu, Yunan, China (10.4%).
The high frequency in America and China is consonant with the high proportion of Neanderthal admixture in those regions.

Guthrie's paper deals with Native American HLA and mentions one of those "Neanderthal HLA alleles", the A*02 (bold is mine):

Distributions of these ten HLAs in other parts of the world are not what would be expected from the premise that Americans stem mainly from Northeast Asians. Instead, the basic American populations seem most like those of western Asia and of Southeast Asia, paralleling the findings of Steele and Powell (1992) regarding Paleo-Indian skulls. Their multivariate analysis showed craniofacial features closer to those of southern Asians and Europeans than to those of northern Asians. The only HLA prominent in both America and northern Asia is A*2, which CS call ubiquitous and which is also strong throughout Europe, South China, and Japan... [1]

The A*2 prevalence in Europe and China is evidently due to their closeness to Neanderthals.

The resemblance of Amerindians to Western Asians is also supported by the genome sequenced from a 24 Kya H. sapiens (named MA-1) from Mal’ta in south-central Siberia:

  • It suggests that between 14 to 38% of Native American autosomal ancestry originated through a gene flow from this population.
  • MA-1 is closer to contemporary Native Americans than to Northeast Asians suggesting that those groups may have originated in secondary wave(s) of immigrants from East Asia [2], or that back-migrations from America dispersed other lineages in Central and Western Eurasia [3].
  • Ma-1’s estimated shared drift statistic, (f3), places Amerindians closest to Northern Europeans and Northern - Central and Western Siberians, and furthest apart from Eastern Siberians and Asians. Possibly indicating a common Neanderthal background, which could explain the European signature found in pre-Hispanic Amerindians (i.e. Kennewick man).

The Phoenician connection

Guthrie's paper also deals with other HLAs, with interesting inferences:

The A*32 allele seems to indicate a Mediterranean or specifically Aegean impact in the Caribbean region (including on the Cherokee) as well as on Tupians of the lower Amazon (Oyampí and Parakana). It seems to connect this set and the Central Amerind composite with northern India, Sardinia, the Tuareg of Algeria, and with populations around the Adriatic Sea in Greece, Yugoslavia, and Italy. A*32 is absent from other South American samples except the Mapuche.
A*32 levels in the Mapuche, Oyampí, and the Central Amerind composite samples are among the top nine in the CS tabulation (7-9%), and the Tupian Oyampí near the mouth of the Amazon River have the second highest American frequency. If this is not an artifact of sampling [...]
Both A*32 and A*30 are found at significant levels in Greece, Sardinia, and in the Central Amerind composite. They also appear at anomalously high frequencies in Samoan outliers but are not documented elsewhere in Pacific islands. This may reflect limited exploration of the Pacific by Mediterraneans who otherwise left few traces except (controversial) petroglyphs. [1]

Curiously this may be an indication of Phoenician, Cretan, Mycenean or Carthaginian genes during their sea voyages beyond Gibraltar. (See my many posts on Phoenicians in America).

No Paracas HLA data

Online sources cite Guthrie as having proven that Paracas mummies HLA is European. This is false. Check his only comment on Paracas Mummies below:

European Genes from other Systems
There may be no clear marker for European ancestry among the “classical” genetic variants, although a high frequency of the Rhesus cde (r) allele might qualify. CS [Cavalli-Sforza] also considered immunoglobin f;b, adenylate kinase 1, and ABO type B, when found together, to indicate Caucasoid admixture in eastern North America (p. 337). Occurrences among indigenous Americans of cde or A or B of the ABO system were once attributed to recent admixture and databases were “corrected” accordingly. It is now understood that some of these unexpected alleles arrived in antiquity. Mummies from Paracas, Peru, possessed both A and B antigens (Allison et al. 1976, 1978). [1]

So he does not mention HLAs, only Blood groups and the fact that Paracas Mummies had A and B antigens. Which does not mean that they were Europeans.


[1] James L. Guthrie, (2001). Human Lymphocyte Antigens: Apparent Afro-Asiatic, Southern Asian, & European HLAs in Indigenous American Populations Pre-Columbiana, Volume 2, Number 2 & 3, December 2000 & June 2001 (online at New England Antiquities Research Association
[2] Raghavan M., Pontus Skoglund P., et al., (2013). Upper Palaeolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans. Nature 505, 87–91 (02 Jan 2014) doi:10.1038/nature12736
[3] Dziebel, G., (2013). The Demographic Isolation of Amerindians and Back Migrations to the Old World in the Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene: From the History of Ideas to Contemporary Scientific Realities. Paleoamerican Odyssey Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico 17 Oct. 2013

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

Monday, February 17, 2014

Paracas: Some jokes.. and some serious thoughts

alien dna

In my (rational) mind, the Occam's razor point of view clearly signals that the people at Paracas, Peru, believed that an oblong skull was cool. So they bound their children's heads to deform them into shapes that they found cute. They were normal human beings like you or me.

Now, to imagine that they were aliens and that they had alien DNA in them is, to put it mildly, really crazy.

In the first place: why would aliens have DNA at all? The means for replicating protein could be based on some other set of molecules. The Universe is vast, I don't expect Star Trek-like aliens with humanoid appearance to be found when we finally encounter intelligent extraterrestrial beings.

They could have their biochemistry based on any kind of molecule! How about silicone?

The panspermia theory proposed by Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius is very interesting and even probable (Panspermia: hypothesis that life exists throughout the Universe and is distributed by meteorites and comets as they collide with newly formed planets), but it is very different from the idea of extraterrestrials copulating with humans.

I found the paper about their HLA. And will post on it soon.

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

Saturday, February 15, 2014

More on the Paracas mtDNA bunkum

Reading about the "amazing" discovery of the very odd DNA allegedly found in the Paracas (elongated) skulls people, I was prompted to write a mini post today.

A blogger posted: "he samples collected consisted of hair, tooth, skull and bone skin. Apparently, the process was documented via photos and video. The samples were given to the geneticist, who was not given any information about where they came from...".

The above was written to give the impression that the samples were sent to an unbiased geneticist who had no idea of where these samples came from and therefore analysed them impartially. Well, that is NOT THE CASE.

As you can see in a previous post on this subject, the samples were sent to the late Lloyd Pye, founder of the Starchild Project.

The "Project" is (please check their website out focused on proving that the "Star Child" is a child from the stars. That is, it has alien (extraterrestrial) genes. Yes, it is really absurd. But let their website defend their case:

"This is not unheard of, nor impossible, but it is a significant indicator that something about the Starchild is not entirely human. It strongly suggests that some aspects of the Starchild's DNA might not be found on Earth at all! Again, this is not absolute proof. We need many additional readings through modern sequencing machines to confirm it. However, we take this initial partial result as a strong indication that the Starchild is not entirely human."

This is really amazingly, how can I write this nicely? Well, I can't, it is hogwash, hot air, not true, false, lies.

I do believe that in our amazing Universe there are countless intelligent species currently alive and kicking in their own stellar systems. What I do not belive is that they took some super duper space warp starship to come to Earth and impregnate the locals with their Star-genes to create Star-Children.

Google the late Lloyd Pye and find out that: "Lloyd Anthony Pye Jr. (September 7, 1946 – December 9, 2013) was an American author and paranormal researcher best known for his promotion of the Starchild skull. He claimed it was the relic of a human-alien hybrid, although DNA testing showed it to be from a human male. He also promoted the ideas that cryptozoological creatures such as Bigfoot were real and that aliens intervened to create life on Earth."

I am an open minded person, but such conjectures require proof, and sound proof, peer reviewed.

This is the guy they sent the Paracas samples to! An unbiased researcher? I don't think so.

Then he sent them to another unbiased "researcher", Melba Ketchum according to Doubtful News. However Breian Foerster, who is the "Assistant Director" of the "Paracas Museum" (I wonder what are his kudos for such a position), and author of several books on the Paracas skulls, tour guide to their burial places and firm supporter of the notion that they are "aliens"... has threatened legal action against Sharon Hill (of Doubtful News) and directly denied the involvement of Melba Ketchum in a wishy washy way: Now he says he is working with her on this project, but that she didn’t work on the samples in question. Maybe a colleague at her "institution"? What standards were used? How can we ascertain that rigurous rules were followed?

In my humble opinion all of this is show biz, not science. And anything coming from Ketchum's laboratory should be well scrutinized by many geneticists and validated (just see her Bigfoot DNA paper), because sciens is all about other people cross-checking and confirming your findings... I lived through the Cold Fusion Fiasco in 1989!

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

Friday, February 14, 2014

The ignored mutations and extinct haplogroups

In two previous post I expressed my doubts about the reliablity of the "mtDNA clock" for measuring the age of mankind. Today I will point out another problem I noticed with the assumptions behind the mtDNA clock.

The ignored mutations

The different mtDNA haplogroups are assumed as branching in pairs upon a mutation that changes the sequence. Such as a change of a base "C" for a "T" in position "x" along the mtDNA.

Those individuals carrying this mutation (the "C") will pass it down matrilineally and they will form part of a "new" haplogroup (hg) (which we will call "Z") and those with the original sequence (the "T") will do the same and form another haplogroup (which we will cally "Y").

So when we compare individuals of each haplogroup we will immediately notice that there is a "C" instead of a "T" in position "x". And that is the key to tell hg Z apart from hg Y.

However if, long ago, all individuals of hg Z (that is, those carrying the "C" mutation) died without issue or only had sons (so their mtDNA was not passed on) or their daughters did not bear children, then there would be no living humans belonging to hg Z nowadays.

We would have an extinct haplogroup.

So if we looked at the sequence of those belonging to hg Y, who managed to survive until today, we would never imagine that, long ago, the base "T" at position "x" had mutated to "C" and originated a new haplogroup, now long gone, the extingt hg Z.

These mutations which cannot be recognized are what I term "ignored mutations".

The clock and the ignored mutations

The image below show several "hypothetical" haplogroups that branched off from the basal RSRS proposed by Behar et al. (the image is adapted from their paper [1]).

The original mutation points are marked with a green square, each originated a branch (which also had their own mutations along the sub-branches, all of which became extinct).

The branches are colored red and blue. And as we can see all individuals belonging to them ceased to pass their mtDNA along to their children long ago in Africa, before hg L3, split into M and N. Exactly how long ago is the issue which cannot be defined.

This does not mean the lineages of the individuals themselves became extinct. They may have only had sons, so the mtDNA stopped there but their nuclear genome kept on and is still among us.

haplogroup tree

Extinct haplogroups and "ignored mutations".(From [1])

The mtDNA "clock" can only take into account the mutations that we can see, comparing extant populations between themselves and noting the differences in their sequences.

But as I said at the beginning if a mtDNA branch disappears without trace, then, how can the mutations be recognized?

The only way would be to unearth the fossil remains of one of the individuals belonging to one of those haplogroups and noticing that yes, at position "x", the base "T" had changed to a "C". And that they split (the green squares in the image above) from the known haplogroups.

For this reason, the current mtDNA clock may be underestimating the quantity of mutations, which if they occurred at a regular rate as accepted by most mainline scientsts (a notion I disagree with), would mean that humans are much older than currently accepted.


[1] Doron M Behar, A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root. The American Journal of Human Genetics, Volume 90

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

Monday, February 10, 2014

More on Elongated skulls in America...

On red or fair haired elongated skulled people in Peru. Artificial and naturally ocurring skull deformation...

WWe know that cranial deformation is widespread across the globe, [9] and that American natives did it at the time of Spanish discovery and conquest.

The map below from Juan R. Munizaga (1987) Deformación craneana intencional en América, clearly shows that it was widespread and very ancient practice: [8]

skull deformation map Americas

Munizaga, author of the map, points out in his work [8] a very unusual hypothesis that:

"in only two of the cases can we be reasonably be sure of an extra-American origin: a) The annular, oblique tabular and erect tabular types found among the people of the Northwest coast of North America [...] which entered our continent very few centuries ago [...] and b) the brifronto-vertico-occipital deformation. This type, is very rare and exclusively found in Southeastern USA [...] is depicted in ceramic figures of a Taoist monastery in China dating from the early Christian Era [...] accepting an extra-American origin, we propose a general hypothesis that this custom was introduced by travellers from the Far East..." [8].

Nevertheless, I want to point out a comment published in 1855 by Rivero regarding deformed crania as a mutation and not due to artificial causes: [1]

Oblong skulls were due to a mutation

"there is more: the same configuration is found among unborn children and we have become convinced of this truth after seeing the fetus found in the womb of a pregnant woman's mummy, which we found in a cave in Huichay, two leagues from Tarma and which is now in our collection. Professonr d'Outrepont, one of the leading celebrities in the science of obstertrics has assured us that this fetus is seven months old. It belongs, according to the very pronounced configuration of its skull, to the tribe of the Huancas. In plate VII of the Atlas is this interesting and decissive proof against those favoring mechanical action as the only and exclusive cause of the phrenologic shape of the peruvian race... [1]"

The image below depicts the fetus mentioned by Rivero above:

fetus with elongated skull
Plate VII. Rivero (1855). Seven month fetus with elongated skull. From [1]

Although one case is not enough to support a mutation that produces elongated skulls, and we could also assume that the fetus described by Rivero had suffered some intra-uterine disease that caused that oddly shaped skull.

Nordenskjöld reported that a baby was born in Bolivia with an unnaturally long head, but the midwife was not worried, they could shape it at will and make it rounder ("In Ascencion wurde ein Kind mit unnatürlich langem Kopfe geboren" = "In Ascencion a child was long with unnatural Head born".[5]

The above shows two things: (1) oblong skulls ocurr naturally and (2) Amerindians were good at re-shaping skulls.

Nevertheless, Rivero's opinon was repeated later by : " A. L. Kroeber (1944), reporting on pre-Inca crania from further north on the same coast, stated that the majority of undeformed Early Chimu skulls were long. Thus, these earliest pyramid builders of Peru were not identical with their historic successors, all of whom are round-headed... " [2]

Since I am not a specialist I can hardly judge how Kroeber detected that ancient Early Chimu skulls were "long". But if his research was sound, it could point out to some genetic trait.

If it has a genetic cause, perhaps DNA sequencing could shed some light on the matter (and I mean "real" sequencing, and not the kind I posted about yesterday).

The Paracas mummies had elongated skulls (in my opinion, artificially elongated skulls), and possessed oddly colored hair:

Light colored Amerindian hair

Mildred Trotter examined the hair from the Paracas Mummies, and described it as: "... the sample in each case was interspersed with very light yellow hairs which may be assumed to have been white. In general, the color was a rusty brown and gave the appearance of having faded..." [3]

She also noted that the hair of two of the mummies "was quite definitely wavy" and was straight in the others. Waviness is related to the hair's shape of its cross-section. Amerindian and Asian hair tends to have a circular cross-section (straight hair) while Caucasian hair is more oval (tending to be wavy). Trotter reported that "The cross-section form shows so much divergence between the different mummies that they cover all divisions of hair form" [3], that is Amerindian - Asian - European.

The area of the cross-section of Paracas mummies was 30% less than the average value for Amerindians. (European cross-section surface is smaller than Native American surface area): "The size of the hair was much smaller than has been found for other Indians..." [3]

Realizing that this may place the Paracas people outside of the Amerindians, she added that post-mortem dehydration could account for changes in cross-sectional shape as well as its surface area. The brown or reddish colored hair could also be the consequence of a dark black hair having faded over time. The fair hair was due to a darkening white hair.

Trotter's explanations are very reasonable and is the most likely cause for odd colored hair among the Paracas people.

However, reddish wavy hair is not unknown among the Mataco natives from Argentina's Chaco region (northeastern Argentina), see Pelleschi below: [7]

"The hair is straight, but in some -very few- individuals I have noticed it slightly wavy, almost curly, I can not say if due to art or nature [...] The hair is jet black among the adults, white among the elders [...] reddish often among the boys until the age of 10 or 12 years: a curious thing, which brings to my memory Salles theory, according to which primitive men must have had red hair. So here we would have a case of atavism..."[7]

We can forgive Pelleschi for his Victorian mentality (after all, he wrote that in 1897).

I am always interested in red-haired people outside of Europe because it may indicate a link to Neanderthal genes, and if in America, it may hint at an early migration of Neanderthals into America followed by admixture there with Homo sapiens, once they reached that continent.

A closing word on Deformed skulls

Cieza de León, a Spanish conquistador and chronicler noted that along the coast of Ecuador (in the 1540s), the newborn baby's head was pressed between two boards (tablas) so that by the time he reached the age of four or five his head was either long or broad. They did this because it made them healthier and better able to work. [4]

Curiously, another reason is given for the practice of cranial deformation: Dr. Alvarado cites Juan Manuel Balcazar and his book about "The History of Medicine in Bolvia" where he states that according to Pachacutec: "The Inca [emperor] Manco Kapac decreed that the head of newborn babies be tied so that they grow up with mental handicaps because indians with large round heads were very enterprising and specially very disobedient". He wanted them to have long sloping heads to make them obedient and submissive.[6]

Many Paracas skulls have holes neatly cut into them, these trepanations are be explained by Dr. Alvarado:

Skull deformation caused plenty of problems according to Dr. Alvarado. It led to intra-craneal hypertension which can be noted due to the presence of the so called digital impressions seen on some of the deformed skulls. This custom led to mental alterations, reduced IQ, epileptic fits, head aches, etc. And (this is very interesting) may have been the reason that some of the skulls were trepanated, that is, opened, as a kind of cure (perhaps to let the "demons" of illness out). Though some alien-mongers suggest hi-tech medicine was required for these skull opening operatins, they were done under primitive conditions with obsidian tools, and the surprising fact is that up to 60% of the patients survived the operation. [6]

Based on all of the above, it is quite weird to suggest that the Paracas people had a mtDNA unlike any other human one, displaying mutations not found in any animal (see yesterday's post please). The Paracas mummies were normal humans with artificially deformed skulls. The light color of their mummies hair may be due to some genetic trait or, simply the aging of ancient hair which bleached it. There was probably some genetic mutation that caused occasional oblong heads among Amerindians as reported by Rivero, Kroeber and Nordenskjöld, but its prevalence among the native Americans is unknown.


[1] Mariano Eduardo de Rivero, (1855) Antigüedades Peruanas. pp 32
[2] Thor Heyerdahl and Geoffrey Ashe, (1971). Isolationist Or Diffusionist?: The Bearded Gods Speak Pall Mall press.
[3] Mildred Trotter, (1943). Hair from Paracas Indian Mummies. Am. J. Phyg. Anthrop., n.s., 1 (1) : 69-76.
[4] Cieza de León, P., Ballesteros, M., [Ed.], (2000). La crónica del Perú (1553). Madrid:Dastin S. pp. 177
[5] Nordenskjöld, E., (1910). Indianer und Weisse in Nordostbolivien p. 153
[6] Dr. Ramiro Alvarado. Trepanaciones y Deformaciones Craneales en Tiwanaku, Sociedad Boliviana de Cirugía
[7] Pelleschi, Juan, (1897). Los Indios Matacos y su Lengua. Part I. Ch. II. pp 175

Further Reading

[8] Juan R. Munizaga (1987). Deformación craneana intencional en América. Revista Chilena de Antropología No 6. 1987, 113-147.

[9] Dingwall, Eric, (1931). Artificial Cranial Deformation London.

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

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Paracas mtDNA or selling snake oil to the gullible

As usual something that might be interesting if (and this is a big if) it was studied in a serious scientific manner. Instead it is treated with the usual slapdash paranormal bunkum ways of pseudoscientists who are always trying to make a fast buck with candid suckers who buy the nonsense they put forth as "scientific".

I am interested in an early peopling of the American continent either by Homo erectus or Neanderthals. I am also keen on the idea that modern Homo sapiens entered the Americas a long time ago, shortly after leaving Africa. Clues for this could be found in the remains of ancient Paleo Indians and Indians.

Paracas mtDNA

So when I read that the mtDNA of some mummies found in Paracas, Peru by Julio Tello in 1925 had been sequenced, I was quite thrilled.

I am well aware that most people who are interested in the Paracas mummies are considered either racists or wackos (the former because they promote an "arian" peopling of America and some mad notions of white supremacy, see, for example Alexander Kemp's book on the subject), the cranks on the other hand believe in Aliens (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), Atlanteans or hybrids of some or all of the above.

A minority (which includes me) are drawn by the oddness of these Paracans, they have a Caucasian air and light colored hair (reddish, brown and even fair) which is also wavy and fine. This is in stark contrast with the typical Amerindian features of coarse black hair and, which are Mongoloid (as opposed to Caucasian). Some of their funerary masks have blue stones embedded in them, in the place of the eyes, perhaps hinting at that kind of colored eyes!

An mtDNA analysis would be of great help to trace their origin (Asia, Europe, North America), stray Greeks or Phoenicians, Romans or Vikings. There is a lot to be learned from these mummies.

Coneheads = Aliens

That is what most believe when they see a deformed Paracas skull.

Paracans are not aliens

A genuine Paracas skull, note the color of the hair.
And, a skull from Indiana Jones "Aliens" movie

But, people focus on their deformed skulls. Many American Natives deformed the skulls of their babies into an elongated form, the Paracans were no exception (New: 10.Feb.2014 See my post on this).

Getting back to the mtDNA, the museum where the mummies are kept, authorised that their mtDNA be tested, and samples were taken by an "authority" on these elongated-skulled-people, Brien Foerster, who recently revealed the findings of the "geneticist" he hired to do the tests:

"it had mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) with mutations unknown in any human, primate, or animal known so far. But a few fragments I was able to sequence from this sample indicate that if these mutations will hold we are dealing with a new human-like creature, very distant from Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans [...] I am not sure it will even fit into the known evolutionary tree"

Fake science and hot air

Well, it turns out that the "expert" Foerster, has organized his livelihood around the mummies, he wrote and writes books, organizes tours and of course is keen on keeping his business growing [2].

He chose a rather strange analyst for the tests: "The samples were sent to Lloyd Pye in the US, famous as the caretaker of the Star Child skull, who has now delivered the samples to his geneticist in Texas" [2].

Star Child is a skull found in Mexico which (some non-scientists) believe is of extraterrestrial origin. Pye is therefore not a neutral, unbiased scientist interested in gleaning a human origin from the Paracans

In case you are wondering which is the University or Renown Laboratory that did the tests (i.e. the "geneticist in Texas"), don't expect a reliable institution, no, not at all, the analysis was done by "Dr. Melba Ketchum" [3]

You will recall that Dr. Ketchum said that she had sequenced bigfoot's DNA, which turned out to be so unscientific that she had to invent her own "peer-reviewed" journal to self-publish it.

I posted on thish Bigfoot DNA sequenced? or is it some fantasy?. And concluded in a later comment: "Actually, the whole paper seems to be based on poor science, incorrect assumptions and published in an unknown online publication apparently set up to specifically host this "paper". So I am extremely skeptical about the whole subject of the DNA testing." (I was trying to be polite. The Bigfoot mtDNA is fake science based on clumsy testing and incorrect interpretation of the results).

Having said this about Dr. Ketchum's credentials on mtDNA analysis, even though the "formal" paper with the Paracas mtDNA results has not been published, I can assure you all that it will display the same kind of "science" as the Bigfoot case. They will surely come up with an Alien origin for Paracans.

The press release hints at this, calling the Paracas people "new human-like creature[s]", worse still: their mtDNA has "mutations unknown in humans, primates or animal" which, is of course impossible.


[1] Tello, Julio C. Obras completas: Paracas. Primera parte. 2005. Fondo Editorial de la Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, 2004.
[2] B. Foerster Hidden Inca Tours
[3] Sharon Hill, February 6, 2014 Foerster, Pye and Ketchum collaborate: Paracas elongated skull exposed! (UPDATE)Dobutful News

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

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Another "creature" in Toltén River, Chile

In the first place, I want to thank Matías González Marilicán who yesterday wrote a comment about a post I published in November 2010 (Tolten River creature). Matías pointed out that a Belgian engineer who lived in that area towards the end of the nineteenth century had also mentioned that "creature". Intrigued by the commen I looked up the information and I am pleased to be able to share it with you.

So, after a long period (during which I have been exploring the early peopling of America and possible cross-cultural origins for Amerindian myths - via Phoenicians), I am once again posting about Patagonian Monsters.

Toltén River

The Tolten river is 230 km (143 mi) long and has its sources at Lake Villarica at 230 m (754 ft.) above sea level. It crosses the Chilean province of Cautín in Araucania with an East - West course and flows into the Pacific Ocean.

Map of the Araucania region, Toltén River and Pitrufquén.

Verniory and the "Great Best"

Gustave Marie Eugene Verniory (1865 - 1949) was a Belgian engineer who wrote a book ("Ten years in Araucania, 1889 - 1899) describing his experiences in central -southern Chile, during the period when he worked for the Chilean government building a railway between Victoria and Toltén, and later, from Temuco to Pitrufquén

Verniory learnt the Mapuche language (mapudungun) and lived in Lautaro, Temuco, Angol and Pitrufquén. He left Chile in 1899 and never returned.

His book (apart from trains and railway building) deals with his daily life with the locals, the Mapuche natives and the European settlers. As well as his interaction with the forests and the Patagonian environment. As a typical Victorian European, he was also a hunter and besides hunting avutardas (a local variety of ibis), he sought other trophies. It is in this context that he wrote:

"We had, for a brief period of time, the hope of hunting something extraordinary.
Some persons have seen it several times, a league
[5 km - 3.1 mi.] more or less, from here on the shore of our river: a fabulous monster which they have named the "gran bestia". [in Spanish in the original French text. "Gran Bestia" means "Great Best"] Its description varies according to the witness. Some have seen it dragging itself across the pebbles, others, leaving the water. Its size ranges from two to ten meters according to the differing statemens [6 - 33 ft.] The only point that they all agree upon is that its body is large, black and shiny. It has created a myth among the simple people; the monster has already devoured many men and fear is spreading.
We organized many expeditions to find it, but we were not successful. We will never find out what the great beast is.
I am inclined to believe that it is one of those enormous seals, of the kind I saw at the mouth of the Imperial Rvier, which, has gone up-stream and, once its vacations were over, returned to the sea.
" [1]

The Imperial River he mentions, was where he spent his summer holidays in February de 1897. The hunting expeditions took place during August 1897.

This creature lived close to the town of Pitrufquén (which is in the middle of the map, above).

I share Verniory's opinion and it is likely that the beast was a Sea Wolf (Otaria flavescens) which in those days lived along the Araucanian coast or, a Sea Lion (Otaria leonina) which still lives along the Chilean coast. Perhaps one of these animals swam up-river following their prey.

It could also be some other kind of seal, an extinct species of fresh water (or sea) seal. Because, the size of the creature is quite large (over 2 meters long - 6 ft.) which means it would have been a very big seal.

Once again I thank Matias for the tip.


[1] Gustave Veriniory, Diez años en Araucania, 1889 - 1899. pp 456

Lea este post en español

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

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

More on the useless Mitochondrial DNA Clock

I wrote my previous post (The mtDNA clock ticks out of time) on the reliability of the mitochondrial DNA "clock" after doing my research on the D4h3 haplogroup (hg) in America for my post on it [mtDNA D4h3a (Continued)].

At the time, the variability in the amount of mutations along each lineage drew my attention. How could all these living people who came from a common root have differing amounts of mutations? After all, if there was a clock ticking of mutations at a steady rate, then all these people would have the same quantity of mutations. Well they don't. So, I suspected the clock was not reliable.

The smoking gun

The following image shows part of the tree that drew my attention:

mtDNA clock is wrong

D4 to Dh43 haplogroup (hg)tree, with mutations. From [1]

I will just take a part of the whole tree to make my point:

  • Between the root at D4 and D1 there are 2 mutations (marked in red on the image as 2 m), and the time that has passed is 23.5 - 17.8 ky. That is: one mutation every 11.72 - 8.9 ky.
  • Between root D4 and D4h3 there are 7 mutations (7 m), so you would expect them to be 77 to 63 ky apart, but no, surprisinglythis branch is between 500 and 2,500 years YOUNGER than its root. What sort of a tree is this? branches are born before the root?
  • Between D4h3 and some extant humans which I have chosen and marked with violet, we have:
    • 10 mutations to individual #01
    •  9 mutations to individual #26
    • 18 mutations to individual #17
    You could argue that #26 and #10 had accumulated mutations at almost the same speed (barely 10% difference between them) but #17 lineage has mutated twice as fast as the other two did.
  • Between D4h3a (in blue) and the extant humans on the bottom row, the amount of mutations varies between 3 and 12. A Four fold difference. The average is 6.95 mutations. I made a graph with these mutations and, surprise, it has a roughly bimodal distribution (the type I mentioned in my previous post). See below:
  • Finally, the D4h3a haplogroup is dated at 18 - 14.3 kya, so based on the maximum and minimum mutations mentioned above (12 and 3) the clock can tick anywhere between: 1,191 and 6,000 years per mutation! (compare that to the 11,720 to 8,900 years calculated further up and you can see why the clock is pointless).

Bimodal distribution of mutations in D4h3a haplogroup. Copyright © 20154 by Austin Whittall

Implications of mtDNA clock violations

Despite these blatant violations of a mtDNA clock I thought that somehow I had misinterpreted the data or not understood how the mechanism works, so I did some research into the "clock" issue. The outcome was yesterday's post which substantiates (based on scholarly papers) that the clock ticks with variable rates.

The sad part is that time and time again, paper after paper I see dates defined for our Most Recent Common Ancestors (MRCA) and entry dates into America based on this non-existent clock.

Take the following example (Behar et al, 2014): “As the clock violation was observed only in a restricted number of specified cases, we applied the best available tools for estimating the ages of ancestral nodes.” [4].

The "best available tools" may surely be the orthodox point of view: A very long (>100 ky) incubation period in Africa, a small failed entry into the Middle East where modern humans briefly occupied the region some 90 kya. A sudden migration "out of Africa" some 50 kya followed by a quick expansion across southern Asia, Europe and Australia. A slower march north across East Asia and Siberia and a very late (<25 ky) entry into America.

I now believe that the mtDNA clock is irrelevant, it is guesswork and adjusted "by hand" to fit the dates defined by the orthodox point of view.

With this in mind, I believe that it is very likely that a group of humans could have left Africa with L3 haplogroup (hg). anytime between the 200 - 80 kya (yes the "failed" migration that took place 90 kya, could have been earlier), and then mutated along the M hg and D hg branches in say, 20 ky, allowing an entry into America of Modern Humans anytimg between 180 and 60 kya.

And I specifically give a very ancient date of 200 kya for the appearance of modern humans based on a Y chromosome haplogroup (Mendez et al, 2013) named A00 which was dated to: "338 thousand years ago (kya) (95% confidence interval = 237-581 kya). Remarkably, this exceeds current estimates of the mtDNA TMRCA, as well as those of the age of the oldest anatomically modern human fossils. The extremely ancient age combined with the rarity of the A00 lineage, which we also find at very low frequency in central Africa, point to the importance of considering more complex models for the origin of Y chromosome diversity. These models include ancient population structure and the possibility of archaic introgression of Y chromosomes into anatomically modern humans. [5]"

This early date is resisted by orthodoxy arguing that mtDNA and skeletal remains give more recent dates and therefore argue that the mutation rate used to estimate the TMRCA for the Y chromosome was simply too low [6]. (I don't trus the mtDNA clock, and regarding bones... maybe the oldest human fossils have not yet been found.)

An early and rapid dispersion across Central and Eastern Asia could account for ancient Humans such as those found at Zhirendong, China with a minimum age of 100 - 113 kya (Wu et al, 2010). Fossils which prove that the "90 kya" migration into Asia was not a failure, the migrating humans settled in China.

These fossils have a mosaic of modern and archaic features (like a chin) that:

" any “dispersal” involved substantial admixture between dispersing early modern human populations
It therefore indicates a prolonged (>50,000 y) coexistence of late archaic and early modern humans across portions of Eurasia, and not just between Africa and Eurasia. Those late archaic humans include the Neandertals in western Eurasia until mid-MIS 3. They also encompass MIS 3 archaic humans in central Asia and Siberia and into at least MIS 5 in northern China..." [2]

Here we have a good explanation for the high proportion of Neanderthal genome in modern East Asians (Vernot and Akay, 2014) who have +20% more Neanderthal genes than Europeans.

It is a pity that Amerindians were not included in the study, it is likely that they have even more Neander genome than East Asians (based on other traits that they have inherited in a higher proportion than East Asians).

Have you noticed that Native Americans are rarely included in these studies?

Apparently 30% of Neanderthal's genome ended up in humans, of course no individual has more than 1 to 3%, but combine all those bits and pieces and it is one third of H. sapiens genome.

But getting to the point. Vernot and Akay suggest that Asians have more Neanderthal genes because there were two admixture events. One just after modern Humans left Africa and before they split into the Asian and European populations. And another, between Asians and Neanderthals after they split from the forebearers of modern Europeans. This double admixture gave them a higher dosage of Neanderthal DNA.


[1] Fig. S1. From Ugo Perego et al, Current Biology, Volume 19 1. Supplemental Data Distinctive Paleo-Indian Migration Routes from Beringia Marked by Two Rare mtDNA Haplogroups
[2] Wu Liua et al., (2010). Human remains from Zhirendong, South China, and modern human emergence in East Asia
[3] Vernot, B. and Akay, J., (2014). Resurrecting Surviving Neandertal Lineages from Modern Human Genomes. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1245938
[4] Behar, D., et al., (2014). A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root. American Journal of Human Genetics, Volume 90, Issue 4, 675-684, 6 April 2012 doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2012.03.002
[5] Mendez et al., (2013). An African American paternal lineage adds an extremely ancient root to the human Y chromosome phylogenetic tree. Am J Hum Genet. 2013 Apr 4;92(4):637.
[6] Wilson Sayres, Timing of ancient human Y lineage depends on the mutation rate: A comment on Mendez et al.

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

Monday, February 3, 2014

The mtDNA clock ticks out of time

Each of our cells carries within it several Mitochondria. These are remarkable organelles which are essential for cellular metabolism. They are even more remarkable because they carry their own DNA, which are independent from our other DNA, the nuclear one, which codes our other proteins.

The fact that Mitochondria have their own DNA supports the notion that long ago, before eukaryotic cells formed, they were independent organisms. Somehow they formed a symbiotic relationship within eukaryotic cells, generating energy for them in exchange for protection and “food”.

mtDNA is inherited in an uniparental manner –from mother to offspring. Male mtDNA in sperm does not enter the fertilized egg. This means that it can be used to track matrilineal lineages back in time.

Eve theory

Since it is inherited on a matrilineal basis, your mtDNA is identical to your mother’s and, also to her mother’s (your maternal grandmother) and so on, backwards generation after generation, until we reach the group of families that make up the the first Homo sapiens clan. One of the women among them is the source of your mtDNA.

That would be true if mtDNA did not mutate, but it does, at higher than nuclear DNA mutates. As they lack enzymes to repair mutations mutations accumulate.

The Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is much smaller than the nuclear DNA, but is critical because the genes it encodes are fundamental: they control cellular metabolism, and if they mutate in a negative way, the organism dies or suffers diseases.

A comparison of all modern human mtDNA shows that extant and fossil humans display a wide range of mtDNA sequences.

But all come from the original group of Homo sapiens. Actually all mtDNA of living humans can be traced to one woman. That does not mean she was the only woman alive at that time. It means that the other women had sons instead of daughters (a dead end for mtDNA), or died without issue, or their offspring died without having children.

Along the line, long ago, a mutation that was “neutral” (remember, wacky mutations lead to death or illness) appeared among the “original” lineage and the daughter who carried it, passed it on to the future generations through her female offspring. The original lineage carried on until another different “neutral” mutation split it from the “original” lineage, and was passed on to the next generation.

The neutrality of mutations is something we will be going back to further down. Please remember it.

This branching from the original lineage has led to a diversity of lineages, each carrying the mutations that have accumulated across the millennia.

If these mutations happen at regular intervals we could time when they took place and find out when did the original group of Homo sapiens live. We could also compare the mtDNA of all mankind and find where they lived.

This was done, and according to this theory, the original woman (“Eve”) lived in Africa some 150 kya.

But… is this based on sound science? Does the mutational clock tick at a regular pace? Can we extrapolate backwards in time with confidence? In my previous post I expressed my doubts, today I will substantiate them with evidence.

The clock ticks at a variable pace

When I first looked at a haplogroup tree, which shows the mutations along each branch, I was surprised to see that the number of mutations differs along the branches.

An African, a European, an Asian and an Amerindian all living now and traceable back to the same woman would all have to have (if the clock ticks with a regular pace) the same number of mutations (i.e. 40 mutations) over those 150,000 years. They would not be the same mutations of course: we would share those that took place before the branching points and would have our particular ones along the tips of our different branches. Maybe some would repeat across branches due to chance. But we would all have the same amount of mutations.

Well, this is not the case. So the clock theory is not correct. That is my blunt conclusion, but let’s read some more subtle comments on the matter, because thera are some papers that point out that mutations occur at a variable rate, no clock here, just mutations happening in a haphazard manner:

Galtier, Nabholz, Glémin and Hurst. (2009)

we argue that mitochondrial DNA is not always clonal, far from neutrally evolving and certainly not clock-like, questioning its relevance as a witness of recent species and population history. […] The molecular clock, therefore, is certainly not a tenable assumption as far as mtDNA is concerned. Nonclock-like evolution is common, and the departure from homogeneous rates can be very strong. In mammals, the mitochondrial mutation rate appears more variable across lineages than the nuclear one” [3]

Nabholz, Glémin and Galtier. (2009)

This study confirms and extends the message of caution […] about the usage of mtDNA as a molecular marker of biodiversity in vertebrates: (i) mtDNA diversity is not related to species abundance; (ii) mtDNA greatly departs the molecular clock hypothesis. The 2% per site per million year calibration (estimated from primate data) has no degree of generality, and should not be used for dating purposes in the absence of fossil data.” [4]

Yes, both were written by the same team, so not to cheat I will quote other papers:

The paper by Behar et al. [1] which reviewed the mtDNA tree and proposed some rational changes, also noted that there are some problems with the “clock”:

The accepted notion of a molecular clock means that contemporary mtDNA haplotypes should show statistically insignificant differences in the number of accumulated mutations from the RSRS.

Note: RSRS is the “ancestral Eve”. In other words all humans should have the same amount of mutations in their mtDNA when compared to “Eve”, but, we do not . Behar et al. add:

The range of substitution counts separating contemporary mitogenomes belonging to major haplogroups from the RSRS is shown in Figure S2. The mean distance is 57.1 substitutions, the median is 56 and the empirical standard deviation is 5.9. Widely different distances ranging from 41 substitutions in some L0d1a1 mitogenomes to 77 in some L2b1a mitogenomes are observed. [1]

This means that we don't have say 60 substitutions (mutations), no, we have between 41 and 77. The middle value is 56. A very oddly ticking clock indeed. But let’s read more from Behar et al.:

Interestingly, the ranges of substitution counts within haplogroups M and N, which are hallmarks of the relatively recent out-of-Africa exodus of humans, are also very large. For example, within M there are two mitogenomes with 43 substitutions (in M30a and M44) and two mitogenomes with as many as 71 substitutions (in M2b1b and M7b3a). This is especially striking because the path from the RSRS to the root of M already contains 39 substitutions. Hence, the difference between the M root and its M44 descendant is only four substitutions (two in the coding region and two in the control region) as compared to 32 substitutions in the M2b1b and M7b3a mitogenomes.[…] Our results demonstrate violations of the molecular clock in M […] and give mixed results for the entire tree [...] and L2 […] and borderline results in N […] We are currently unable to offer well-founded explanations for these findings, which remain the scope of future studies. [1]

In other words haplogroups L, M and N violate the clock, but, despite these reservations, Behar et al ignore them and merrily go on to estimate lineage ages (Quote: "As the clock violation was observed only in a restricted number of specified cases, we applied the best available tools for estimating the ages of ancestral nodes" [1]).

The Figure S2 mentioned above in Behar et al. is interesting because one might expect the variability within a haplogroup to follow a Normal Distribution (Gauss bell-shaped frequency distribution), with a strong central mean value of substitutions and a dispersion to each side… but instead most of the frequency distributions are very clear Bimodal distributions.

Bimodal Distributions

As an engineer I am well acquainted with statistics, we use them every day to analyze how our industrial manufacturing processes are running. Take a look at the distributions shown in Figure S2 below (the red arrows show the “peaks” of the double humped Bimodal distribution):

Figure with bimodal distributions
Bimodal distributions, modes marked with red arrows. Adapted From [1]

For the layman: if a process is affected by some regular variation, on a chance basis, you will notice a bell-shaped distribution of frequencies. Such as height of people: Some will be very tall, others very short but most will fall close to a median height. This is a Normal distribution and looks more or less like the one adopted by M in the image above (a bell-shaped curve) .

Now a Bimodal Distribution has two “humps” or modes (a peak or local maxima): If you have a machine making bottles, the weight of the bottles should adopt a bell-shaped Normal distribution. Now imagine two different machines making bottles. Each will have its own bell shaped distribution: Machine A and Machine B, with their own mean values. Now mix all the bottles in a box and draw some samples at random from the mixture, if you graph the frequencies for these samples based on their weights: it will combine both bells into a double-hump distribution, a Bimodal one.

It is clear that something is altering the Normal Distributions in the L1, L2 and N haplogroups. L0 and L3’6 are not Normal either.

What process could skewer the Normal distribution in this manner?

Howell, Elson, Turnbull and Herrnstadt (2004) [2] also noticed this odd “clock-violating” behavior of the Ancient African L lineages and the bimodal distribution of substitutions:

Based on the results presented here, such control region clocks are highly suspect[…] We have recently analyzed a set of 560 mtDNA coding region sequences (Herrnstadt et al. 2002) and shown that selection has influenced the evolution of the human mitochondrial genome. […] As a follow-up to those studies, we report here our tests ofclock-like evolution in African haplogroup L mtDNA sequences. The results are complex, and they argue against any simple mtDNA clock fortiming events during human evolution. ” [2]

Non Neutral mutations

In other words, the mutations in mtDNA are not neutral that happen by chance, they are influenced by natural selection, and it is this that alters the “ticking” of the clock. They note in their paper that: “the pairwise mismatch distributions are “jagged” (data not shown), the typical finding for sequences from African populations […] thus indicate selection, rather than recent population expansion.” [2]

They also took a larger sample of African mtDNA and found “ Marked violations of clock-like evolution were now observed both in the coding and control regions […] evidence that haplogroup L2 subclades evolve at different rates” [2]

Mishmar et al. (2003) looked into the natural selection issue: why would mtDNA “evolve” under selective pressure. They conclusions are very interesting: [6]

Human mtDNA shows striking regional variation, traditionally attributed to genetic drift. However, it is not easy to account for the fact that only two mtDNA lineages (M and N) left Africa to colonize Eurasia and that lineages A, C, D, and G show a 5-fold enrichment from central Asia to Siberia. As an alternative to drift, natural selection might have enriched for certain mtDNA lineages as people migrated north into colder climates.” [6]

In other words, as humans moved across Asia their mtDNA mutated and a lot. They point out (below) that mitochondria encode certain molecules crucial for energy production within the cells and therefore impacting on the ability to produce heat and survive in cold climes:

Natural selection has been hypothesized to explain anomalies in the branch lengths of certain European and African mtDNA lineages. […] the genes of the mtDNA are central to energy production, both to generate ATP to perform work and to generate heat to maintain body temperature.
We now hypothesize that natural selection may have influenced the regional differences between mtDNA lineages. This hypothesis is supported by our demonstration of striking differences in the ratio of nonsynonymous (nsyn)/synonymous (syn) nucleotide changes in mtDNA genes between geographic regions in different latitudes. We speculate that these differences may reflect the ancient adaptation of our ancestors to increasingly colder climates as Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa and into Europe and northeastern Asia.
” [6]

Comments and Conclusions

Based on the above it seems pointless to calculate the dates of the branch splitting points and the date our ancestral “Eve” originated. Yet, as we saw (Behar et al.), even though the method is baseless, it is used just the same.

As I mentioned in previous posts, the mutation rates are “hand – adjusted” so that the calculated branching dates “fit” the “evidence” provided by the bones and stones archaeologists. If America is supposed to have been peopled not more than 30 kya then the haplogroups found in America must not be much older than that… and so on.

Science should corroborate findings using independent sources not circular ones.

But let’s go back to the bimodal distribution… Why would a group of haplogroup N people have a mode of 51 and others have a mode of 61 substitutions? Perhaps it could be interpreted as per Rogers and Harpending [8] (I don’t think so). I believe that it may be caused by a fusion of two groups of people (Murray-Macintosh, 1998 [5]) , one carrying a large amount of substitutions and another with much less. And that the mutations are due to selective pressure. So the more mutated population could be an older one and the less mutated one, a younger one. That is, two waves of people entering the same region from the same homeland in two separate waves.

The LM3 Lake Mungo mtDNA

And last, but not least, the Australian remains of a male, gracile Lake Mungo 3 (LM3), which is about 60 ky old, its mtDNA was tested. The outcome was startling (Adcock et al., 2001) [7]:

His mtDNA belonged to a lineage that only survives as a segment inserted into chromosome 11 of the nuclear genome, which is now widespread among human populations.
This lineage probably diverged before the most recent common ancestor of contemporary human mitochondrial genomes. This timing of divergence implies that the deepest known mtDNA lineage from an anatomically modern human occurred in Australia; analysis restricted to living humans places the deepest branches in East Africa.
[…] This finding does not imply that all living people originated in Australia, any more than previously described deep lineages in Africa demand a recent origin of humans on that continent. Deep lineages in Africa and our finding of an even deeper lineage in Australia are consistent with a number of possible models of the demographic and evolutionary history of our species.” [7]

Where does this "ancient and different mtDNA" fit into the branches of the mtDNA tree built by orthodoxy? These remains are only 60 ky old, so are therefore younger than L haplogroup from Africa as reconstructed by Behar et al [1], see image below from their paper:

from Behar paper

The scale at the top shows that the mutations happen (according to Behar and his team) at a regular pace!. To place LM3 before L0 would imply an age of 170 kya, but LM3 lived 6 0kya. Something is not quite right. And that is the reason that LM3 is ignored in all papers on the mtDNA timeline and haplogroups.


[1] Behar, D., et al. (2014). A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root. American Journal of Human Genetics, Volume 90, Issue 4, 675-684, 6 April 2012 doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2012.03.002
[2] Neil Howell, Joanna L. Elson, D. M. Turnbull and Corinna Herrnstadt, (2004). African Haplogroup L mtDNA Sequences Show Violations of Clock-like Evolution. Mol Biol Evol (2004) 21 (10): 1843-1854. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msh184
[3] N. Galtier, B. Nabholz, S. Glemin, G.D.D. Hurst, (2009). Mitochondrial DNA as a marker of molecular diversity: a reappraisal. Molecular Ecology (2009) 18, 4541–4550 doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04380.x
[4] Benoit Nabholz, Sylvain Glémin and Nicolas Galtier, (2009). The erratic mitochondrial clock: variations of mutation rate, not population size, affect mtDNA diversity across birds and mammals Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:54 doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-54
[5] Rosalind P. Murray-McIntosh, Brian J. Scrimshaw, Peter J. Hatfield, and David Penny, (1998). Testing migration patterns and estimating founding population size in Polynesia by using human mtDNA sequences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences vol. 95 no. 15
[6] Dan Mishmar et al. Natural selection shaped regional mtDNA variation in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences vol 100. no.1, 171–176, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0136972100, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0136972100
[7] Gregory J. Adcock, et al. (2001). Mitochondrial DNA sequences in ancient Australians: Implications for modern human origins. PNAS u January 16, 2001 u vol. 98 u no. 2 u 537–542
[8] Harpending H C, Sherry S T, Rogers A R, Stoneking M (1993). The genetic structure of ancient human populations, Curr Anthrol 34:483–496.

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