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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

More on Amerindians and Austro-Melanesians

Another paper on the peopling of America (Maanasa Raghavan, et al., (2015) Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans Science, 23 July 2015 / Page 1 / 10.1126/science.aab3884) proposes that "the ancestors of all present-day Native Americans, including Athabascans and Amerindians, entered the Americas as a single migration wave from Siberia no earlier than 23 thousand years ago (KYA), and after no more than 8,000-year isolation period in Beringia. Following their arrival to the Americas, ancestral Native Americans diversified into two basal genetic branches around 13 KYA, one that is now dispersed across North and South America and the other is restricted to North America."

No early peopling here, no ancient archaic Denisovans or pre-East Asians entering America long ago.

The founding populations were isolated in Beringia and then entered America and that is all there is to it!

But... they do recognize that some Native Americans are close to Austro-Melanesians:

"We found that some American populations, including the Aleutian Islanders, Surui, and Athabascans are closer to Australo-Melanesians compared to other Native Americans, such as North American Ojibwa, Cree and Algonquin, and the South American Purepecha, Arhuaco and Wayuu (fig. S10). The Surui are, in fact, one of closest Native American populations to East Asians and Australo-Melanesians, the latter including Papuans, non-Papuan Melanesians, Solomon Islanders, and South East Asian hunter-gatherers such as Aeta (fig. S10).
We acknowledge that this observation is based on the analysis of a small fraction of the whole genome and SNP chip genotype datasets, especially for the Aleutian Islander data that is heavily masked due to recent admixture with Europeans (28), and that the trends in the data are weak.
Nonetheless, if it proves correct, these results suggest there may be a distant Old World signal related to Australo Melanesians and East Asians in some Native Americans. The widely scattered and differential affinity of Native Americans to the Australo-Melanesians, ranging from a strong signal in the Surui to much weaker signal in northern Amerindians such as Ojibwa, points to this gene flow occurring after the initial peopling by Native American ancestors.

So they recognize the strong links between Austro - Melanesians and Amerindians but suggest it happened after the peopling of America... and that the signal may be due to a limited analysis of the genome (the small sample tested by some statistical fluke gives a high relationship between both populations, but maybe a larger sample of the genome may yield a different outcome).

I find this conclusion rather odd: "The widely scattered and differential affinity of Native Americans to the Australo-Melanesians, ranging from a strong signal in the Surui to much weaker signal in northern Amerindians such as Ojibwa, points to this gene flow occurring after the initial peopling by Native American ancestors".

Odd because it can also be interpreted as follows: South American Natives have a higer signal of Austronesian genes because they are what is left of an ancient migration that was overwhelmed by East Asians in North America.

The tide of Siberian people replaced almost all Austronesian genes in North America and also in South America but those living in relative isolation in the Amazon retained some of the original genes...

Both (theirs and mine) theories explain the gradient (high in S. America - low in N. America) in the Austronesian genetic signal... so which is the best explanation?

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

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Similar myths between Patagonians and Australians

Some Patagonian Natives' myths that are very similar to those found in Australia, among the Aboriginal people.

As I mention further down, the human mind whether modern or archaic, Aboriginal, Chinese or Patagonian has a rather limited set of emotions or feelings to deal with. So fear is usually elicited by means of monsters, man-eating ogres, creatures from the dark, living-dead and son on. It should not surprise us to find giants, dwarves,trolls, lake creatures and all kinds of monsters that have their equivalent in different parts of the world. They were all "invented" by the "limited" human mind.

Having said this, people with a common origin share traditions, which in the very distant past were the glue that kept clans or tribe together. They were passed on from father to son, mother do daughter over countless generations and have survived until this day. A clear example is Little Red Riding Hood, which struck fear into us when we were children: a man-eating (or better said, a "granny-eating") wolf in a forest! How many of us have seen a real live wolf? Very few. Maybe on a documentary on Alaska or Canada, but never in the wild.

But the story is based on real facts: forests are dangerous, wolves exist and careless children may fall prey to them (or other strangers) or worse, also cause trouble to their kin.

So below are some of these shared myths:

Tehuelche native myths from Patagonia

I copy pasted from my book, I have added some comments to give context, in brackets "[]":

"Yiakelon she- ­ghosts. These ghost­ women dwelled among the cracks of the cliffs and escarpments and bear an amazing similarity to the Australian Aboriginal belief in ‘Mimi’, who were tall slim mischievous beings that also lived among the rocky crags. The Aboriginals believed that before their arrival to Australia, Mimi had human shape and taught men how to hunt, cook, talk, sing and also, to paint the rocks (note the extraordinary similarity with Elal). Once again we have a myth relating both cultures, Australian and Patagonian; if it is a coincidence, it is striking...

"...The creature described by Falkner [comment: among the Guarani natives in Paraguay] is surprisingly similar to the Iemisch [among the Tehuelche of Patagonia]; no wonder Musters quickly identified the Patagonian water tiger with it. A Guaraní legend about Guarán,the native warrior who slayed Yaguarú, provides some interesting details about the beast, not only did it live in a cave by the river bank but it also had a strong tail and a taste for women’s flesh, it was also foul smelling just like Ayayema, Kawtcho, Mapinguari and the dwarfish Chupacabras. [several Amerindian monsters]
A Pan-Gondwanan beast? A similar mythical creature, an amalgam of giant otter and feline, is said to live in New Zealand, the ‘Waitoreke’ —Maori for “water animal with spurs”. The Australian Aboriginals also had their equivalent water monster, the foul smelling ‘Bunyip’. This may reveal once again possible ancient cultural ties between Australoids and southern South American natives, or maybe the repetition of similar themes across dissimilar and totally unrelated human cultures; perhaps we humans have a limited repertoire of fears and they tend to crop up again and again in our myths. It may also indicate that the former super continent of Gondwana was home to a strange water creature...

Selk'nam myths from Tierra del Fuego

"... at the dawn of time, during the mythical era of the ‘Hoowin’, the legendary ancestors of the Selk’nam [lived]. Once again, this bears a striking similarity with the Australian Aboriginals’ belief that all things began with the Dreamtime; a sacred era out of time in which ancestral Totemic Spirit Beings formed the creation."

The Hoowin was a time that preceded us, the world was peopled by the Sun, Moon, stars, snow, wind, sea, all of them very powerful witches. Then the modern world formed, many of these creatures turned into animals, mountains, lakes and the sea... humans were created out of this mysterious ancestral Hoowin world.

Hoowin is very similar to the Dreamtime, an "everywhen", a "time out of time" which was peopled by the ancestors of Australian Aboriginals, who had supernatural abilities and lived in this Dream Time that preceded creation...

"Fascinatingly, the Australian Aboriginal people also have legends about wild hairy pigmies that they called Gubba; these are very similar to the Fuegian Yosi in appearance and size, being barely one meter tall (3 ft 4 in).
...The Aboriginals, besides ‘Gubba’ that was akin to the Fuegian Yosi, also recognized another large wild hominid, the ‘Yowie’ or “great hairy man” that killed and ate people. Some Australian researchers such as Gilroy, Cropper and Healy believe that Yowie is a Homo erectus, a human ancestor which became extinct worldwide when modern man, Homo sapiens, moved out of Africa. According to them, it somehow managed to survive in Australia long enough to coexist with men.In the Australian case, it is reasonable to assume H. erectus habitation prior to modern humans, because its remains ve been found close by, in neighboring Indonesia. This could imply that the Patagonians’ ancestors, the Australoids, could have encountered H. erectus in Austronesia and brought it with them as their ‘hairy men’ myths when migrating to America...

I also explained the Austronesian hypothesis as follows:

"The Austronesian hypothesis
All these Patagonians, were quite different from the rest of South American natives; this has been revealed by a study of their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). This type of DNA is maternally inherited and allows researchers to trace the maternal lineage back in time and to establish connections between groups of people based on differences in their mtDNA. mtDNA taken from skeletons of the now extinct Yagan, Selk’nam and Alakaluf populations as well as Aonikenk Tehuelche show that they, from a genetic viewpoint, were different from all other American natives (including the Mapuche in northern Patagonia). It is noteworthy that the skeletal remains of Fuegians, the Patagonian natives and their Paleo­Indian ancestors also depart from the typical Mongoloid pattern found in other American Indian (Amerindian) groups such as the Mapuche. Both lines of evidence suggest that there may have been more than one migratory wave of Asian people ancestral to the American natives. It may also be possible that the ancestors of all the Patagonian PaleoIndians came in an independent migration long before the arrival of the ‘Clovis people’. The Clovis had entered the continent through Bering Strait via Alaska about 13,500 years BP. They are considered as the Americas’ first inhabitants (hence the ‘Clovis­ first’ model) yet, southern South America, which according to the Clovis first model should be the last part of the continent to be occupied by humans, seems to have sites as old as or even older than the Clovis sites found in North America. Human remains discovered in Brazil show a very strong resemblance to modern South Pacific people, suggesting that America was first colonized by the generalized human (Homo sapiens) population that inhabited East Asia in the Late Pleistocene. These people arrived in America in very ancient times long before the Mongolid morphology of the forbearers of the Clovis had evolved.
They may also be the ancestors of the southern Patagonian Paleo Indians, and their different racial origin and cultural background may have a bearing on the myths and legends of their Tehuelche and Fuegian descendants. It is extremely likely that these first Americans brought with them their own set of ancient tales about strange beings, and gradually adapted them to their new home. There are, as we will see, surprising coincidences between Patagonian and Austronesian myths. It was these original people who forged legends that even today pervade throughout Patagonia.

Quotes from A. Whittall, Monsters of Patagonia, Zagier & Urruty.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2015 by Austin Whittall © 

Friday, July 24, 2015

On Austronesians and Amerindians

It is not often that one has the chance to quote onseself, but in view of my previous post, I will quote my book regarding the early peopling of America by Austronesians, a theory put forth by Rivet quite some time ago:

The Austronesian hypothesis

So, allow me to immodestly quote from my book Monsters of Patagonia:

These ‘Australoids’ were indeed part of the first wave of modern humans (Homo sapiens) to leave Africa about 100,000 years ago. They used watercraft to navigate coastal waters and could have easily sailed along the shores of Asia, across Bering Strait into America long before the appearance of the Mongoloid type in Siberia 20,000 years ago. When the Mongoloid Asians later moved across Beringia into America, they advanced on those original Americans replacing them. A few remnants of the first wave survived extermination by the newcomers isolated in the remote Patagonian hinterland. This theory that we have outlined above was first proposed by French ethnologist Paul Rivet (1876-1958), but its validity rests on the disputed navigation skills of the Australoids. To overcome this, Portuguese anthropologist Mendes Correia (1888-1960) proposed a migration route via Tasmania, the Antarctic and Drake Passage, instead of trans-Pacific route, entering South America at Tierra del Fuego some 8,000 years BP, before the Antarctic ice cap formed. But this is conception is highly disputed and lacks archaeological proof.

While researching for my book, I came across many similarities between the myths of Patagonian natives and those of the Australian Aboriginals, they are remarkably similar in many strange ways. It gives support to the notion of a common origin for both groups.

Now some questions to be answered... what about the Denisovan admixture? People in Melanesia have the highest admixture of Denisovan genes. What about Amerindians? Did admixture take place before Amerindians and Austronesians split? or after? There is a lot to learn!

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The link between Negritos, Papuans and Amerindians!

At last a paper that sheds some light on the origin of Native Americans. I was pleasantly surprised to see a paper today that postulates that America had two distinct founding populations and that the older one, found in South America, is linked to Negrito people of the Andamans, Papuans, New Guineans and Australian Aboriginals.

This is the paper: Pontus Skoglund, Swapan Mallick, Maria Cátira Bortolini, Niru Chennagiri, Tábita Hünemeier, Maria Luiza Petzl-Erler, Francisco Mauro Salzano,Nick Patterson,David Reich. Nature (2015) Genetic evidence for two founding populations of the Americas doi:10.1038/nature14895 Received 05 February 2015 Accepted 14 July 2015 Published online 21 July 2015,

The paper is here LINK; the following image is the map that portrays that similarity between those groups:

Just in case you are expecting a post-discovery of American admixture of Asian genes with Amerindian ones... the paper on page 3 shows that they are closer to South East Asians Onge than to Polynesians. The closing paragraphs hint at a very ancient origin for these Amerindian ancestors and this is because though they are similar to the Andaman Negrito-Papuan group they "are not particularly closely related to any of them" and the original population that later led to these Amerindian ancestors became extinct in Asia. By the way, the Andaman natives and the Negrito people are believed to be among the oldest humans out of Africa.

Allow me to throw a wild idea: how can we be sure the flow was from South east Asia to America and not the other way round? an Out of America move from a basal archaic population that lived in the Americas?

And I recall my post on Y chromosome Haplogroup C, which is present in America at low frequencies and... also found in SE Asia.

It is indeed an interesting discovery and is I believe related to the recent paper on the Botocudos, which I wrote about a few weeks ago: "Put together we could conjecture that the old human lineage that peopled Asia reached the New World long before later East Asian or Siberian waves got there. That they are found in some secluded parts of America. They are old, and linked to Melanesia, Australia (whose inhabitants recently moved across the Pacific peopling Polynesia)."

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2015 by Austin Whittall © 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

On our sense of smell, Neandertals, Denisovans and the peopling of America...

A reader of my blog, NeilB, (thanks Neil) has asked me about my take on a recent paper by Kara C. Hoover et al. [1] which links humans, Neandertals and Denisovans in their ability to smell a certain odor.

I had seen the paper but was (and still am) unable to access its facts as it is locked behind a paywall, so at that time I decided to let it rest for a while. A month has passed and not much has changed, but I have spent some time doing research on the subject, so today's post will address this paper and "my take on it".

Global Survey of Variation in a Human Olfactory Receptor Gene Reveals Signatures of Non-Neutral Evolution

There is a substance named Androstenone which is a steroid it is quite peculiar because it was the first mammalian pheromone to be discovered.

Phermomones are chemical substances that are secreted by different kinds of animals and plants, from unicellular microbes to insects to birds. These chemicals trigger different responses, and the sexual one is probably the best known.

It is found in the sweat and other excretions (i.e. urine, saliva) of animals and is an element that trigges sexual arousal or interest. Among those animals with androstenone, are male pigs.

Some people can smell it, some find the smell nasty, others agreeable and some, can not even smell it at all ("Those who cannot mell androstenone are roughly ctual androstenone non-detection in young healthy adults is between 1.8 and 5.96%" [8]).

The interesting question is why do we humans even smell a pig pheromone? or, why do some find it horrible while others dont't detect it or find it neutral? The paper by Hoover, Gokcumen, Queshy, Bruguera, Savangsuksa, Cobb and Matsumani [1] was published online on June 13, 2015 and its title is: "Global Survey of Variation in a Human Olfactory Receptor Gene Reveals Signatures of Non-Neutral Evolution" addresses this issue. The abstract is great and (as any good abstract, summarizes the paper clearly):

Allelic variation at 4 loci in the human olfactory receptor gene OR7D4 is associated with perceptual variation in the sex steroid-derived odorants, androstenone, and androstadienone. Androstadienone has been linked with chemosensory identification whereas androstenone makes pork from uncastrated pigs distasteful (“boar taint”).
In a sample of 2224 individuals from 43 populations, we identified 45 OR7D4 single nucleotide polymorphisms. Coalescent modeling of frequency-site-spectrum-based statistics identified significant deviation from neutrality in human OR7D4; individual populations with statistically significant deviations from neutrality include Gujarati, Beijing Han, Great Britain, Iberia, and Puerto Rico.
Analysis of molecular variation values indicated statistically significant population differentiation driven mainly by the 4 alleles associated with androstenone perception variation; however, fixation values were low suggesting that genetic structure may not have played a strong role in creating these group divisions.
We also studied OR7D4 in the genomes of extinct members of the human lineage: Altai Neandertal and Denisovan. No variants were identified in Altai but 2 were in Denisova, neither of which is shared with modern humans. A functional test of modern human and a synthesized mutant Denisova OR7D4 indicated no statistically significant difference in responses to androstenone between the 2 species. Our results suggest non-neutral evolution for an olfactory receptor gene.

Broadly what Hoover and team are postulating is that they studied the sequence of DNA that codes for OR7D4 in a sample of 2,200 persons spanning 43 populations from different parts of the world and found that this olfactory receptor gene is selected positively by evolutionary forces. Some populations have one mutation, others another and this is what influences how each population reacts to the smell of those steroids.

The pig link apparently comes from its domestication, which took place in Asia, so those who domesticated and ate pigs would have to find them appetizing, and a nice smell is a key factor in making something appealing at the table. So Asians should have the gene variant that diminishes the sensitivity to this pig steroid. While Africans (if Africa is our homeland) should have an "original" allele which finds the smell repulsive.

But since the study found that Neanderthals (who have our OR7D4 variant) and Denisovans (who had another but allowed them to smell the same as we do) both could detect the odor of androstenone, and they did not domesticate pigs, I believe that this steroid is more linked to us and our pheromones than to those of pigs. Probably pigs have the same kind of steroid that we have so we smell theirs like we can smell ours.

But Hoover (at the University of Arkansas Faibanks website) belives that the link is with the pigs as food... Below I quote her:

"The Evolution of Olfactory Receptors
Kara C. Hoover
What microevolutionary factors shaped the distribution and diversity in olfactory receptor genes in modern humans? My long-term research is to reconstruct temporal and spatial patterns of variation using genetic data from modern humans. I am particularly interested in the interplay between microevolutionary forces and diet and behavior in shaping the distribution and diversity of olfactory receptor genes during the peopling of new landscapes as humans migrated out of Africa to Eurasia. A forthcoming paper is focused on signatures of selection in OR7D4, an olfactory receptor for sex pheromone detection that is also linked to human pig meat preference. The rich archaeological and genomic record of pig domestication in Asia provides the contextual frame in which I can exploit the promise of the genomics revolution through generation of an integrative anthropological dataset. My analysis of sequence data from modern humans, Altai Neandertal, and Denisova indicates that Eurasians are more likely to have a mutated copy of the gene reducing phenotypic sensitivity to androstenone and increasing preference for pig meat....

More information

As that was all I could find out about Hoover's paper, I looked into other papers on the subject to see what we really know about this receptor:

A 2014 paper by Elena Ognatieva, Levitsky, Yudin, Moshkin and Kolchanov [3] tells us about the Human odorant receptor OR7D4 (the "OR" part stands for Odorant Receptor) detects the odor of two "odorous steroid", androstadiennone and androstenone. It does not detect other smells (out of 66 that were tested). It is interesting to point out that some individuals find the smell of androstenone unpleasant, while others find in quite appealing. Also some persons perceive the smell quite distinctly even in very low concentrations while others seem to be impervious to it.

The most common allele of this receptor is known as RT, then there is another quite common variante known as WM (because the substitutions are R88W and T133M).

Individuals carrying two RTs (RT/RT) find the odor of androstenone and androstadienone as unpleasant. But those carrying the WM variant either as WM/WM or WM/RT, found both steroids less unpleasant and were less sensitive to them. This had already been proven by Keller et al. [4] in 2007.

Keller et al. [4] found the following prevalence among the populations that they studied:

Out of 391 subjects, 242 were RT/RT (61.9%); 96 were RT/WM (24.6%) and 10 were WM/WM (2.6%). The remaining individuals belonged to other alleles as per detail below:

RT/P79L 26, RT/S84N 7, WM/P79L 4, RT/D52G 2, WM/S84N 2, WM/L162P 1, S84N/P79L 1.

But the prevalence had an ethnic gradient, and here we only focus on those who were either RT/RT or RT/WM:

  • All subjects RT/RT: 71.6%, RT/WM: 28.4%
  • African Americans RT/RT 85.9% and RT/WM 14.1%.
  • Caucasian: RT/RT 63.3% and RT/WM: 36.7%

So more African Americans find the smell of pig unpleasant than Caucasians, which would buttress the "Eurasian domestication of pigs propelled the mutation to make them smell nicer theory".

They also found that some other alleles found at very low frequencies are predominant in some ethnic groups:

  • rs5020280 S84N, has a 1.3% global frequency, but of those, 50% are African Americans and 10% Caucasians. None were Asians or Native Americans.
  • P70L, has a 4% global prevalence and of those, 81% are Africans, none are Asians, Native Americans or Caucasians.
  • D52G, with a 0.3% prevalence is exclusively found among African Americans
  • L162P, with 0.1% global freqency is exclusively Caucasian.

The impact of these other alleles on the imact of the odor of the steroids is not clarified in the paper, except for S84N, whose carriers would be more sensitive to androstenone.

Another paper deals with the prevalence found in Madagascar by Razafindrazaka et al., (2015) [6], and the numbers are:

RT/RT: 64.8%; RT/WM: 32.0% and WM/WM: 3.2%, more or less similar to the values reported by Keller et al.

The paper adds that "Considering the Malagasy sample as a whole, the allele frequency of the derived form was 19% [...] The observed frequencies for both SNPs (R88W and T133M) were closer to the frequencies observed in Europe (FIN: 22%, GBR : 18%, IBS : 18%, TSI : 22%) and in Asia (CHB : 20%, CHS : 24%, JPT : 25%) than the frequencies observed in Africa (YRI : 7%, ASW : 4%, LWK : 3%).

But what about a "sexual activity in humans"? Well, there is an older paper that mentions that this odor receptor has a variant that influences the odor perception (nice or nasty) among heterosexual partners too!, (variant rs8109935) as discovered by Sookoian et al, 2001 [5].

I found this slide shown below which gives a global distribution map of the ancestral and derived form of the OR7D4 alleles. Unsruprisingly (for me), the Americas have a very low proportion of derived allele, conserving the ancestral one.

Slide 12 in [2], K. C. Hoover.

Someone who considers that America was peopled recently will say that the map shows that Paleo Indians peopled the New World before pigs were domesticated so were not subjected to evolutionary pressure to find pig smell nice. So they kept the old ancestral allele. Just like Africans, who lived in the cradle of mankind.

But that conclusion (that humans reached America before pigs were domesticated) is evidently true regardless of the smelling abilities of humans because "Pig domestication began around 9000 YBP in the Fertile Crescent and Far East" [9] and by that time people had been living in America for thousands of years.

As I see the map, the prevalence among Amerindians (exlude the Porto Ricans and Colombians, which are an admixture of Africans and Europeans) is much lower than anywhere else in the whole World. Even the Papuans... It is similar to that of Thailand, (a place where pigs were domesticated). So it is evident that pigs and their domestication don't have any relationship with our pig steroid smelling abilities.

The map shows that Amerindians did not get their allele from East Asians, theirs predates the mutation it is the ancestral one. Not shared by Denisovans, but surely by Neanderthals or even more ancient ancestors like H. erectus.

It is an ancestral trait, dating back to the primates:

Olfactory Receptor Genes in Primates, fig. 2 in [7]

The figure above, from Zhuang (2007) [7] is acompanied by the following text:

"The putative hominine ancestor (node γ in Fig. 2), which had the same sequence as the ancestor of human, bonobo and chimpanzee (node δ in Fig. 2) , showed a reduction in both sensitivity and efficacy compared with the putative Great Ape ancestor (Fig. 1B). In contrast, the bonobo and chimpanzee ancestor (node ε) showed greater response than the ancestor of human, bonobo, and chimpanzee (node δ)... OR7D4 shows a signature for positive selection in the primate lineage"

They add: "although there is no evidence for a behavioral role of these odorants in a primate species other than human. As an OR for sex-steroid derived compounds, OR7D4 is not likely to be involved in food detection or toxicity avoidance. If functional evolution of OR7D4 is adaptive, it is tempting to speculate that sensitivity to androstenone and androstadienone, which is at least partly determined by OR7D4 in humans, could play a role in the reproductive fitness in some primate species. Nonetheless, it is also likely that functional ORs for androstenone other than OR7D4 exist in primate species."

This is more or less in line with my thoughts: OR7D4 played a role in reproduction among our ancestors, Neanderthal and Denisovans and older ones too, Homo erectus for instance, and also among modern humans. The pig link is a coincidence. Selection acts upon this receptor and others too. The ancestral allele has survived because it plays a key role in our reproductive success.

The red segments in the map above all over Eurasia and Siberia (putative home of Amerindians) indicates a recent mutation once the original wave of hominins spread into the New World. The island in Thailand (once part of the range of Homo Erectus) and the high frequencies of the ancestral variant there, in America and Sub Saharan Africa support a very old dispersal into America. By the way, S.E.Asia is one of the places where Y-Hg. C is found, and also in the New World, which I suggested may indicate an ancient peopling of America.

[1] Kara C. Hoover et al., (2015) Global Survey of Variation in a Human Olfactory Receptor Gene Reveals Signatures of Non-Neutral Evolution, Chem. Senses (2015) doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjv030 First published online: June 13, 2015.
[2] Murdock Site Visit, 5 September 2014 Evolution of Human Olfaction, Kara C Hoover, Anthropology.
[3] Elena V. Ignatieva, Victor G. Levitsky, Nikolay S. Yudin, Mikhail P. Moshkin and Nikolay A. Kolchanov, (2014). Genetic basis of olfactory cognition: extremely high level of DNA sequence polymorphism in promoter regions of the human olfactory receptor genes revealed using the 1000 Genomes Project dataset , Front Psychol. 2014; 5: 247. Published online 2014 Mar 24. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00247 PMCID: PMC3970011
[4] Keller A, Zhuang H, Chi Q, Vosshall LB, Matsunami H., (2007), Genetic variation in a human odorant receptor alters odour perception. Nature. 2007 Sep 27; 449(7161):468-72.
[5] Sookoian S, Burgueño A, Gianotti TF, Marillet G, Pirola CJ, Odor perception between heterosexual partners: its association with depression, anxiety, and genetic variation in odorant receptor OR7D4, Biol Psychol. 2011 Mar; 86(3):153-7.
[6] Razafindrazaka, Harilanto; Monnereau, Aurore; Razafindrazaka, Dina; Tonasso, Laure; Schiavinato, Stephanie; Rakotoarisoa, JeanAimé; Radimilahy, Chantal; Letellier, Thierry; and Pierron, Denis, (2015) Genetic Admixture and Flavor Preferences: Androstenone Sensitivity in Malagasy Populations. Human Biology Open Access Pre-Prints. Paper 71.
[7] Hanyi Zhuang, Ming-Shan Chien and Hiroaki Matsunami, (2009). Dynamic functional evolution of an odorant receptor for sex-steroid- derived odors in primates, PNAS vol. 106 no. 50, 21247–21251, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0808378106
[8] Elizabeth A. Bremner, Joel D. Mainland, Rehan M. Khan and Noam Sobel, (2003), The Prevalence of Androstenone Anosmia Chem. Senses (2003) 28 (5): 423-432. doi: 10.1093/chemse/28.5.423
[9] S E Ramos-Onsins, W Burgos-Paz, A Manunza and M Amills, (2014). Mining the pig genome to investigate the domestication process. Heredity 113, 471-484 (December 2014) | doi:10.1038/hdy.2014.68
[10]Lunde K, Egelandsdal B, Skuterud E, Mainland JD, Lea T, Hersleth M, Matsunami H (2012) Genetic variation of an odorant receptor OR7D4 and sensory perception of cooked meat containing androstenone PLoS One. 2012; 7(5):e35259.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2015 by Austin Whittall © 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pre-Columbian skull with Middle Eastern mtDNA?

I have just come across a very brief "Paper" which details a study conducted on a skull found in Idaho, U.S., which was dated by radiocarbon to an age of about 600-700 years BP and is therefore older than the arrival of Europeans (Columbus) to America. The startling finding is that: "Forensic Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup R0a1a identified, although it is not associated with known Native American populations. Area where Haplogroup R0a1a originated is from the Arabian Peninsula or western Eurasia" [1] of course the authors find that rather difficult to explain so they added that: "Forensic mitochondrial DNA identified haplogroup R0a1a which originated on the Arabian Peninsula; this is not consistent with the rest of the data in the study. Future work will include. Additional trace element analysis from the bone to provide constraints to the duration of burial independent of C-14 dating. A secondary ancient DNA analysis to confirm or disprove the initial findings".

That is check if the skull is younger and therefore admixture with an Arabian could be more plausible or, the mtDNA was wrongly identified and therefore the skull is old and Amerindian.

The map shows where R0 hg is more prevalent: Middle East, Balkans, Horn of Africa and East AFrica....

I am interested in following up on their following studies.


Watkins, Jennifer K.; Alanko, Gordon A.; Blatt, Samantha H.; Bradbury, Cynthia A.; Kohn, Matthew J.; Lytle, Marion; Lacroix, Deborah; Taylor, Joanna; Dudgeon, John; Hazard, Rebecca E.; O’Leary-Jepsen, Erin; and Butt, Darryl P., "A Transdisciplinary Approach to Determining the Provenience of a Distorted, Pre-Columbian Skull Recovered in Rural Idaho" (2015). College of Engineering Presentations. Paper 5.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2015 by Austin Whittall © 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

On Y chromosome Hg. C in South America

Hello again. I have taken a short break and vacations (winter here in Argentina, but vacations were needed!), and are back online posting again.

One year ago I wrote about Y chromosome's haplogroup C, one of the oldest ones, found in S.E. Asia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, East Asia and only very rarely among Native Americans (Y chromosome haplogroup C Part 1 - C hg. in America - seeking a link with Homo erectus). I revisited the subject again this week and was interestingly surprised to find two new developments:

New Paper on the Ecuadorian natives

A paper titled "Insights into the origin of rare haplogroup C3* Y chromosomes in South America from high-density autosomal SNP genotyping", by Massimo Mezzavilla, Maria Geppert, Chris Tyler-Smith, Lutz Roewer, Yali Xue (DOI: looks into different explanations for the unusual prevalence of hg C3* among two groups of Ecuadorian natives and concludes that:

"Our simulations revealed good power to detect recent admixture, and that ≥5% admixture 6 Kya ago could be detected. However, in the experimental data we saw no evidence of gene flow from Japan to Ecuador. In summary, we can exclude recent migration and probably admixture 6 Kya as the source of the C3* Y chromosomes in Ecuador, and thus suggest that they represent a rare founding lineage lost by drift elsewhere."

Which is in line with my conjectures put forth in my post one year ago: "It seems to me that there are several different haplotypes hidden in the C3* paragroup that have yet to be identified, but the Americans, but, it clearly indicates no relationship between Japanese or Koreans and the Amerindians...
It is extremely likely that the current patchy distribution and the extremely low frequences of C3* paragroup in South America reflects the remains of a once widespread lineage later overlaid by more recent migrants from Asia and which was seriously reduced due to the bottleneck provoked by the Conquest of America that began in the Sixteenth Century.

Which is interesting as it indicates that a very "old" Y chromosome haplogroup is present in America. But wait, there is some more evidence:

The Botocudos of Brazil

A recent article at DNAeXplained, "Botocudo Ancient Remains from Brazil" tells about the odd discovery that took place in 2013 that detected a Polynesian mtDNA among some Botocudo skulls that were analyzed. It also adds some new information gleaned from a paper that was recently published. The skulls' Y chromosome was sequenced and it indicated that "...their Y haplogroups are C-P3092 and C-Z31878, both equivalent to C-B477 which identifies former haplogroup C1b2.". Note that the paper does not mention Y-chromosomes. The above is a conclusion of someone who checked the paper... so you can take that with a pinch of salt until ratified by some other source.

So, rhey are citing a paper which I read and checked, but found no reference to the Y-chromosome. (see it here). It does say that these individuals nuclear DNA as well as their mtDNA Bot15 and Bot17 are strongly Polynesian and lack any kind of Amerindian, African or European admixture. They then conjecture about possible origin for these odd individuals (slave trade of Polynesians via Peru, Madagascar slave trade to Brazil, Spanish or Portuguese ships bringing Polynesians to Brazil and a Trans-Pacific contact (strange as the genes appeared on the Atlantic coast of Brazil...). They are stumped and conclude: "Whether brought by Europeans or the result of the Polynesian expansion, the fact remains that some Brazilian Botocudos carried distinctive Polynesian genetic signatures. We hope that further sampling will provide a more definitive answer to this intriguing finding."

These Native Americans were considered backwards and primitive (see my post on them and the theory that they represented an authoctonous American "race"), below is an image of a Botocudo (and he looks anything but backwards or primitive...).


Their name came from the Portuguese word "botoque" (wooden disk) that they used as a personal decoration in earlobes and lower lip.

An article written in 2005 by Reinaldo Jose Lopes (read it here in Portuguese) stated that (my translation): "according to investigators of the University of Sao Paulo, everything indicates that the most typical representatives of the race of the first Americans were those known as Botocudos...". Lopes then explains that the cranial measurements of the Botocudos are closer to those of Paleo Indians and Africans or Melanesians

This was written in the context of the discovery of "Luzia" a woman's skull in the state of Minas Gerais, at Lagoa Santa (by the way, the Botocudos identified as Polynesians by their DNA were also from Minas Gerais). Luzia was dated at 11,500 years old. Below is a reconstruction of her face. Very African or Australian Aboriginal...


Closing Comments

So here we have some interesting facts: some Botocudos of Brazil have a very rare Y-chromosome haplogroup (C) in America, found among a group of Native Americans deemed as the closest to Paleo Indians and to very old remains that actually look Melanesian... The mtDNA and nuclear DNA of these Botocudos are almost pure Polynesian. And also some Ecuadorian natives also have Y Chromosome C Hg., which may belong to a now extremely rare "founding group".

Put together we could conjecture that the old human lineage that peopled Asia reached the New World long before later East Asian or Siberian waves got there. That they are found in some secluded parts of America. They are old, and linked to Melanesia, Australia (whose inhabitants recently moved across the Pacific peopling Polynesia).

In previous posts I have hinted that C hg may actually have a Homo erectus origin (you can read about this it here go down to "Some crazy ideas"), and these recent papers may indirectly support that notion.

Having said this, I also want to give another more critical point of view, a big "BUT..."

I have a suggestion for this oddity, based on the "dog principle": if it has a tail, wags it and barks, its a dog.

So if these skulls have Polynesian mtDNA, Y chromosome unique to Polynesia, nuclear DNA that is 100% Polynesian -and this is the real key- so they did not admix with the Native Americans or Europeans or Africans. These guys were Polynesians. Not American Natives with Polynesian ancestors. No. Pure Polynesians.

Since the papers above clearly indicate that the only possible routes used by these people to get to Brazil are highly improbable, there is only one possible explanation: The skulls belong to Polynesian individuals, picked by some scientific expedition to Polynesia, taken back to Rio de Janeiro, deposited there and incorrectly labeled as Botocudos.

I am going to wait for a formal paper assigning them to Y-chromosome's haplogroup C before considering them seriously.

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