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, December 31, 2015

Ending the year with three Jokes! Happy New Year

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and my best wishes for the new year. May it be a year full of new discoveries, fantastic revelations about our origins, and even more important, let us all have a peaceful, successful, lucky, joyful and healthy year. With love, prosperity and success in all our endeavours, personal or professional. And, as a closure for this great 2015, a silly joke!

Religious Cowboy
The devout cowboy lost his favorite Bible while he was mending fences out on the range. Three weeks later, a unicorn walked up to him carrying the Bible in its mouth.
The cowboy couldn't believe his eyes. He took the precious book out of the unicorn's mouth, raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, "It's a miracle!"
"Not really," said the unicorn. "Your name is written inside the cover."

Why was the Narwahl depressed?

Because it had no porpoise

Enough for today! Happy new year

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

Sunday, December 27, 2015

SLITRK1 and the peopling of America

I was reading a recent and yet unfinished paper (K H Ko, 2015 [1]) about the admixting history of humans (H. sapiens, Neandertal and Denisovans) with a rather different point of view to what one usually finds in this kind of paper. One thing that caught my eye was the following sentence: "Genetic studies have shown that the ADSL, GLDC, and SLITRK1 genes, which are linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior in modern humans, are not found in Neanderthals (Castellano et al., 2014)" [1].

Of course, I checked Castellano et al. (link) and found that they had actually written the following, regarding those three genes: "Thus, it is possible that the mutations in these genes may have affected some component of behavior unique to modern humans. However, we note that even if they did, the way in which they occurred is unknown. For example, if they affected activity or aggression levels, it is unclear whether they increased or decreased such traits. In any event, these changes clearly warrant further investigation."

So maybe the Neanderthals were the violent ones and we were - are the peaceful ones.

But I decided to check the global frequency of this SLITRK1 gene which is linked to Gilles de la Tourette syndrome (GTS), a neuropsychiatric disease which causes involuntary and repetitive movements and vocalizations (i.e. "tics").

And I came across a paper by Speed et al., (2008) [2] which describes a section of this gene and its different haplotypes. They found twelve haplotypes all of which derive from an ancestral haplotype which they inferred from genotyping non-human primates. However this ancestral form was not seen in any population. They found that the existing ones can be arranged into two separate branches from the ancestral one and they show in Fig. 1 in [2], the frequency of the most common haplotypes among different populations:

Fig 1 and Fig 2 in [2] SLITRK1 haplotypes

The interesting thing in that figure is the high frequency of Haplotype #3 among South Americans, Pacific Islanders and North Americans. Obviously these are Native people. In black, above. These are found at much lower frequencies elsewhere. Among South Americans Haplotype #1 which has the highest global frequencies of all Halpotypes, is lowest.

Now Haplo. #1 is in the same branch as Haplotypes #8, 12, 9, 4, 5 and 10. And is highest in Africa and Europe. While Haplotype #3 (more frequent among Amerindians and Pacific Islanders) is on the other branch with Haplos. 6, 7, 2 and 11.

Haplo 4 is most common in Africa and absent in the other regions. It is also 4 mutations away from the Ancestral type. Haplo 6 is highest in Africa and found at similar frequencies in the Americas. It is only 1 mutation away from the Ancestral form. And Haplo 3 is derived from #6 by one mutation. So it is 2 mutations away from the Ancestral type. Placing it at the same distance as haplos #12 (very rare) and the most prevalent #1.

Once again we have an unusual American frequency distribution. And including a type (#3) close to the ancestral one... does this imply it is an "old" type?. It is also on the same branch as #6 (from which it derives), found mainly in Africa and... the Americas. Could this imply some archaic population? Common to Africa and the Americas?

One could argue with the typical "Bottleneck" explanation that America was peopled by people carrying those specific haplos. and that they then diverged and expanded due to this founder effect beyond the original frequencies. But note how East Asians and Pacific Islanders have even less diversity than Amerindians! (3 haplotypes vs. 4 among Americans).

Haplo. #7 is two mutations away from #6 (so it is further away - ergo younger- than Haplo #3) and found at very low frequencies in Africa but... it is highest in SW Asia, followed by Europe and N.E. Siberia.

We could surmise that #3 is the oldest variant (the equivalent one, #8 on the other branch, is found at very low frequencies so it does not appear in Fig. 1), and it follows the migration of H. erectus out of Africa, and survived among Africans and Amerindians, lost elsewhere. The next branch of the tree #7 derives from #6 (Neanderthals) follows their distribution Europe, SW Asia and, the backflow into Africa; followed by N.E. Asia. #3 also derives from #6 and may reflect the Denisovans? found among Pacific Islanders and Amerindians and, to a lesser degree in the other human populations (maybe via Neanderthal admixture?).

The other variants are on the "other" branch which represent "modern" H. sapiens and their late migration out of Africa (Haplo #1).

So we see a high frequency of an "old" (Haplo 3- in black) and a lower proportion (hence more recent admixture) of Haplo. #1 among Americans.

[1] K.H. Ko, (2015). Evolution of Intelligence and History of Interbreeding,
[2] William C. Speed, Brian J. O’Roak, Zsanett Ta' rnok, Csaba Barta, Andrew J. Pakstis, Matthew W. State and Kenneth K. Kidd, (2008). Haplotype Evolution of SLITRK1, a Candidate Gene for Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome, American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B (Neuropsychiatric Genetics) 147B:463–466

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

Monday, December 21, 2015

Could Maludong remains belong to Denisovans?

A paper by Curnoe, Liu, Bao, Tacon and Ren published on Dec. 17, 2015, describes the unusal morphology of the remains found in Maludong (Yunnan), Southwest China.

They analyzed a femur found among other hominin remains and found that "...the Maludong femur has affinities to archaic hominins, especially Lower Pleistocene femora" but, this person lived only 14,000 years ago, so they were contemporaneous with modern Homo sapiens in that part of Asia. Something akin to the Flores hominin.

Are they Denisovan remains?

This is the best part (bold highlight is mine):

"It is intriguing that such a plesiomorphic hominin could have survived at Maludong until near the end of the Pleistocene. Yet, this finding applies also to H. floresiensis, with its apparent minimum geological age only slightly older than MLDG 1678. Homo floresiensis has only been found on the island of Flores in eastern Indonesia though, and its occurrence has been explained by island biogeography. Moreover, the Maludong femur is distinct from the highly unusual femora of this species, with its unique mosaic of traits including resemblances to Australopithecus taxa. One possible explanation is that the Maludong femur samples the population presently known only from Denisova Cave in the Altai region and dubbed the “Denisovans”. Another candidate is the presently unnamed taxon represented by the Xujiayao fossils. However, the absence of femora from both of these groups makes these scenarios impossible to test at present...
...the Maludong femur might represent a relic, tropically adapted, archaic population that survived relatively late in the biogeographically complex region of Southwest China. " [1]


[1] Curnoe D, Ji X, Liu W, Bao Z, Taçon PSC, Ren L (2015) A Hominin Femur with Archaic Affinities from the Late Pleistocene of Southwest China. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0143332. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143332

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

An old paper with Amerindians as ancestral to Europeans and Asians

Just a very short post. I came across an old paper (A view of modern human origins from Y chromosome microsatellite variation, Ibrahim, Muntaser E.; Seielstad, Mark), which gave an "old" origin date for African Y chromosomes, which by the way were the "most diverse". The funny part are Fig. 1 and 2. Shown below:

human origins
Trees showing the relationship of Y chromosome among humans. Americans seem to be the oldest after Africa.. From Ibrahim and Seielstad.

These figures have Asians and Europeans further from the root than Amerindians...

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The mite on your face and the early peopling of America

Earlier this year I wrote a post about some tiny, minute mites that live inside the hair follicles of humans (and almost all mammals), the Demodex; in my post I suggested that they would be a useful tool to trace human migrations and the links between extant human populations. Yesterday I came across a very recent paper (M. Palopoli et al., 2001 [1]), whose findings I want to share with you in today's post.

The repulsive Demodex folliculorum mites

These mites are microscopic eight-legged creatures that are symbionts. They live on us, and we carry them with us and, as this pape [1] shows, the mites live for years on their hosts without moving. People get them from their immediate family environment (parents) or they may move between mates. As African Americans born in America carry the "A" clade which is mostly African and not found in Europe instead of the "D" clade which is very common in Europeans and white Americans, it is clear that these people still carry the mites that their ancestors brought with them from Africa to America when they were enslaved many generations ago.

Demodex and human migrations

The paper [1] detected "four deeply divergent lineages", which they named A, B, C and D. Each of these had a very high level of diversity, which implies that they have colonized their human hosts long ago, in other words "D. folliculorum has had a long association with humans."

Almost all Europeans belong to clade D clade (D is also found in all other regions and all other populations). A and B are common in Asia and Latin America. C is found in Africa and America, with a small share in Europe

An unexpected finding is that the high diversity found "suggest that D. folliculorum has not been through a severe population bottleneck in the recent past, despite evidence for a recent bottleneck among human populations...". This is interesting, as one of the typical arguments is that Amerindians and all non-Africans have gone through bottlenecks that reduced their genetic diversity, how could we go through a bottleneck and our symbionts remained unscathed? No explanation is given.

The genetic variability among Demodex is also interesting as shown in the paper's Table 1. Guess where diversity among Demodex is higest? Africa? No, actually it is lowest there. Asia? No. It is highest in America!:

  • "h" Haplotype Diversity, that is the proportion of individuals carrying unique hapotypes, is highest in America and its value is 1 (i.e. 100% which means each individual sampled had a unique haplotype!).
  • "π" Nucleotide Diveristy is highest in Asia and America with 0.06. This measures the differences between sequences. Africa's value is a bit lower 0.05.

So Demodex,unlike the usual Out of Africa theory, is different, it is more diverse out of Africa...

Nevertheless, the authors report that: "the observed patterns of mite diversity are consistent with an out-of-Africa model of human migration. As predicted by this model, the hosts of African descent harbored a very diverse sample of mite haplotypes..." [1]. They add in proof that as Africans have all clades present while "Only a subset of this variation was present on hosts of either Asian or European descent", these derive from an African origin. The revealing part is that Latin Americans have all four subsets too.

The authors put it this way: "One complexity that is not well accounted for by the out-of-Africa diversity model is that hosts from Latin America harbored a broad diversity of mites from all four divergent clades...". They attribute it to the slave trade that brought Africans to the New World, plus the European admixture with Native Americans.


By using the average arthropod molecular clock, they estimate the duration of the mite relationship with humans: "... the time back to the most recent common ancestor of mitochondrial clades A, B, and C is more than 3 Mya, with a 95% highest posterior density (HPD) interval of 2.4–3.8 Mya. This date roughly corresponds with the origin of the genus Homo...".

They also consider that the clock may not be applicable to Demodex and add: "If such were the case for D. folliculorum, then the actual divergence times between lineages could be much more recent than found here. However, a rate 10 times as fast would still place D. folliculorum lineage divergences more than 200,000 y ago, before the estimated origin of modern H. sapiens."

This is a very interesting suggestion hinting at a pre-sapiens relationship. Could Demodex have arisen among our Homo erectus relatives? Let's look at the information in their Table S2 (supplemental information in [2]):

Table S2. Time to common ancestry of mitochondrial clades in D. folliculorum based on divergence in COIII

  • D: 3.2 Mya CI 2.4 - 3.8 Mya
  • B: 2.2 Mya CI 1.6 - 2.7 Mya
  • C: 1.1 Mya CI 0.7 - 1.4 Mya
  • A: 0.8 Mya CI 0.4 - 1.2 Mya

The oldest clade, D, is found all over the world, followed by B unique to Africa, Asia and Latin America. The next oldest clade C is found in Africa America and Europe but not in Asia. While the youngest clade A is unique to Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Of course the confidence intervals overlap but not entirely. Interestingly A and B have together, have a TCA of 3.2 Mya while A and B together have 2.8 Mya.

Can we make sense of this?

Let's take a look at the unrooted tree from Fig S.2 in [1]. It is quite clear that these clades are very distinct from each other.

Clade D has many branches, perhaps due to a bias in the sampling (most people sampled had a European origin) the second largest sample, Asians also had a large share of D followed by B, hence the quantity of branches on B is larger than that of A or C, which are mostly Africans and Latin Americans. So the branching cannot tell us much.

However the root of the tree as per Fig S.1. in [1], shown below, is located between A & B on one side and C & D on the other:

Looking at the outer circle (origin of the host's ancestors) and not the dots (place of birth of the hosts), a pattern emerges:

  • A is roughly 1/3 each, African, Asian, Latin American
  • B is mostly Asian, actually the "African" case has a Kenyan father and an Indian mother, who probably passed the mite to her child.
  • C is mostly African
  • D is mostly European

And when whe check the origin of the Asian populations (in the supplemental information), another pattern arises

Clade D Asians are roughly 50% Chinese and the others are Taiwanese (25%), and the balance from Nepal and Phillipines.

Clade B Asians are from Thailand 60% and India 40%. This does not include the "Kenyan" whose mother was Indian. In America it was found in a Colombian.

Clade A Asians are Indian and non-specified Asian 50 ⁄50.

The Latin Americans belonging to Clade A include a Brazilian,a Colombian, a Costa Rican and a Mayan. The first two may have African slave genes but the Mayan? Surely not.

A Hypothesis

Could A clade represent a very first ancient migration into America? It is not found among modern Europeans, only in Africa, America and Asia (Indians). As the Afro sample is actually Afro-American the data is scarce! But one could imagine Homo erectus carrying pre-Clade A mites into Asia from Africa.(Those that remained behind would evolve into Clade C in Africa). And their trek through Southern Asia (what will PNG mites tell us when they are sequenced?) and north into China (where they left no trace) and onwards into the New World.

Clade A then branched into Clade B in Asia in the southeastern region from India to Thailand, and it did not backflow into Europe or Africa but did find its way into America.

The C clade evolved in Africa and spread into Europe and (slave trade?) America. In Europe it was found in a Belgian (probable Congo admixture?).

D clade, the global one, found all over the world,in Asia a clearly Sino-Himalayan (Nepal, Taiwan, China), insular Asean (Phillipines) trait, and then in Africa, Europe and America. Could it represent the dispersal of Homo sapiens in Eurasia and later, white Europeans in America? It appears there in Peru and Mexico (Spanish conquest?) in Africa one is from Morocco.

A sampling including the mtDNA and Y Hg of the hosts plus a Papua New Guinea - Australia and Siberia sample would give a much better picture.

[1] Michael F. Palopoli, et al., (2015), Global divergence of the human follicle mite Demodex folliculorum: Persistent associations between host ancestry and mite lineages doi: 10.1073/pnas.1512609112, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1512609112

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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Pre-Wisconsin stone tool in Kansas (a 1984 paper)

A short and quick post, an old paper: Richard A. Rogers, (1984), The Donahue Locality: Evidence Suggesting a Pre-Wisconsin human presence in North America. Current Research in the Pleistocene Vol. 1, 1984. pp. 19., tells of a stone tool that dates back to the Pre-Wisconsin period, that is, prior to the Wisconsin glacial event. It was dated by thermoluminiscence to an age of around 319,000 years, but it may be younger.

The biface is shown below:

Biface from Kansas

A mammoth molar found in the area but in a younger layer of sediments was dated at 39,900 years BP by radiocarbon dating. So this tool is at least 40 ky old.

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

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Diego blood group and the peopling of America

The Diego Blood group system was discovered by chance in 1953. At that time, a woman who lived in Caracas, Venezuela gave birth to her second child. The newborn became ill with hemolytic jaundice which was caused by an incompatibility between baby and mother's blood. The samples were sent fot analysis and the outcome wwas a new private antigen which was named after the baby, Diego (he died shortly after).

Further studies identified two different variants Dia and Dib. The first was found to be quite frequent among Amerindians and some Asian populations but absent among Caucasians, Africans and Australian Aboriginals. The second variant was common around the world.

Dia was also found among Polish people, and it is conjectured that it reached Europe via the Tartar - Mongol invasions in the 1300s.

The two variants arise from a mutation in the SLC4A1 gene. Where an amino acid change provokes Dia. As it is not found in all Asian populations it may have arisen in a confined area of Asia and moved into America with part of these people when they migrated into the New World.

In America there are two variants Di(a-) common in South America and NW North America while the other one D(a+) is found elsewhere. This may be due to the fact that the Di(a-) people are the remnants of a first wave of migrants, later over ran by a Di(a+) population. This theory was proposed by M. Layrisse and J. Wilbert [1] who wrote:

"The Diego blood group is an exclusive Mongoloid gene marker, although it is not present in all Mongoloid populations. The absence of the gene in Waica Indians and its very low frequencies in Warrau and Yaruro Indians of South America suggest that it represents a genetic characteristic of Marginal American Indians. Since Marginal Indians are considered to be early comers to the New World, we suggest that Diego-negative t populations were the first to arrive and to extend throughout South America, while the Diego-positive tribes came later."

Interestingly this theory would be completed by a later third wave that peopled the Arctic region where the Dia type is absent.

A recent paper by Bégat C, Bailly P, Chiaroni J and Mazieres S [2] gives another explanation:

"...For this purpose we assumed that the geographic distribution of the DI*A allele coding for Dia is not random but rather coincided with cultural traits according to the gene-culture comigration concept.
High frequencies were observed in the Peruvian Andes, on the Guyanese Plateau, in the southeastern Amazonian Basin, in a region comprising the Brazilian state of Pará, and along the Tapajos, Xingu and Araguaia tributaries of the Amazon River. Low frequencies occurred mainly in North America, in Chaco and at southern tip of South America. The DI*A allele was totally absent in the Arctic (Eskimo and Tlingit), Panama Isthmus (Bribri and Teribe), Tierra de Fuego (Alacalufe), and a few pocket areas in North America (Cherokee), Northern Brazil/Southern Venezuela (Ninam and Yanomama), and the Chaco area (Ayoreo, Zamucoan).

They go on to explain that the Ayore suffered from a "severe founder effect", and this may explain the lack of DI*A in them. Then they explain its absence among the Panama Isthmus populatons because these Chibchan-speakers "predecessors have lived in isolation from Central and South Amerindians since the early Holocene" [2].

The Fuegians lack this allele because of "isolation by distance with ensuing drift" [2] and its void in Northern North America is due to a "Secondary migration ... of non-Amerind-speakers, i.e., Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dene speakers, from Alaska to Greenland and Southwestern North America.", they back-migrated into Siberia too, and that explains the link between their language and the Yeniseian languages in Siberia where the Yeniseian speakers also lack the Di*A allele. Then came even more gene flow carrying the DI*B allelle into the boreal part of the New World.


  • 5% Chinese
  • 12% Japanese
  • 54% South American Natives
  • 4% North India
  • 0.47% Polish
  • 0.01% Other Caucasians

I must admit that the Diego blood Group is an oddity, found in many non-African It has an exclusively Amerindian variant the Dia variant but, and this is interesting: An antibody of the Diego antigen, Anti-Di(a), is the cause of hemolytic transfusion reactions and also of hemolytic disease of the newborn (like happened to the baby, Diego). The presence of this antigen, or Dia alloimmunization has been observed among different Asian and South American Amerindian populations. A study by Baleotti et al., (2014) [3] found that:

"...HLA-DRB1*07:01 allele was overrepresented in Dia-alloimmunized patients compared to nonimmunized patients and to healthy donors.
... Individuals carrying the HLA-DRB1*07:01 allele present an increased risk for Dia alloimmunization...

This means that those with the lowest frequency of this type of HLA, which in the map below would mean those native to the areas shaded in blue or pale blue, would not have the Anti-Di(a) antigen, because they have Di(a). And the map is clear: The Americas and east Asia. But! why is Australia, Melanesia and Africa also blue?

Also the Altai region (i.e. Denisova-land) is blue. Could the Australia -Melanesia - Americas mean some Denisovan introgression? But what about Southern and Western Africa?.

Could this imply some introgression there, in Africa, of an archaic hominin? See my post an ancient Y chromosome lineage, which mentions a possible archaic-human admixture in a Nigerian site known as Iwo Eleru, where human skeletal remains with both archaic and modern features were found and dated to ~13 kya.

The map below shows the global distribution of DRB1*07:01:01:01, (Source).

And this is the image from [2] showing the distribution of the Diego factor in America (black = none, dark blue= high)

I have the impression that Diego factor is archaic, not the result of a bottleneck.

[1] M. Layrisse, J. Wilbert, Science (1961). Absence of the Diego Antigen, a Genetic Characteristic of Early Immigrants to South America, 13 October 1961, Vol. 134 no. 3485 pp. 1077-1078 DOI: 10.1126/science.134.3485.1077
[2] Bégat C, Bailly P, Chiaroni J, Mazieres S (2015) Revisiting the Diego Blood Group System in Amerindians: Evidence for Gene-Culture Comigration. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0132211. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0132211
[3] Baleotti, W., Ruiz, M. O., Fabron, A., Castilho, L., Giuliatti, S. and Donadi, E. A. (2014), HLA-DRB1*07:01 allele is primarily associated with the Diego a alloimmunization in a Brazilian population. Transfusion, 54: 2468–2476. doi: 10.1111/trf.12652

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