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

Monday, August 19, 2019

Australasian signal in the DNA of Amerindians

BBack in 2015 (Skoglund P, Mallick S, Bortolini MC, et al. Genetic evidence for two founding populations of the Americas. Nature. 2015;525(7567):104–108. doi:10.1038/nature14895) an article showed that " show that some Amazonian Native Americans descend partly from a Native American founding population that carried ancestry more closely related to indigenous Australians, New Guineans and Andaman Islanders than to any present-day Eurasians or Native Americans. This signature is not present to the same extent or at all in present-day Northern and Central Americans or a ~12,600 year old Clovis genome, suggesting a more diverse set of founding populations of the Americas than previously accepted.".

This is quite a remarkable discovery, and the authors quickly clarified that "These results do not imply that an unmixed population related anciently to Australasians migrated to the Americas. While this is a formal possibility, an alternative model that we view as plausible is that the 'Population Y' (we use 'Population Y' after Ypykuéra, which means 'ancestor' in the Tupi language family spoken by the Suruí and Kartiana) that contributed Australian related ancestry to Amazonians was already mixed with a lineage related to First Americans at the time it reached Amazonia."

They concluded that "he genetic data allow us to say with confidence that Population Y ancestry arrived south of the ice sheets anciently: the fact that the geographically diverse Andamanese, Australian and New Guinean populations are all similarly related to this source suggests that the population is no longer extant, and the absence of long-range admixture linkage disequilibrium suggests that the population mixture did not occur in the last few thousand years."

Last year another study (Reconstructing the Deep Population History of Central and South America Posth C. et al., (2018) Cell, Vol 175:5 P1185-1197.E22, Nov. 15, 2018) looked into the peopling of America but didn't manage to find this Australasian signal in "ancient remains" that they analyzed:

"failure to find significant evidence of Australasian or Paleolithic East Asian affinities in any of the ancient Central and South American individuals raises the question of what ancient populations could have contributed the Population Y signal in Surui and other Amazonian groups and increases the previously small chance that this signal—despite the strong statistical evidence for it—was a false-positive."

But shortly after another paper was published in Science (Early human dispersals within the Americas, Moreno-Mayar et al., Science 07 Dec 2018: Vol. 362, Issue 6419, eaav2621 DOI: 10.1126/science.aav2621) that sequenced the DNA of ancient remains from all across America, Alaska to Patagonia and found that prior to the main migration into America, there was an earlier one, with Australasian traits:

"... there are genomic and archaeological hints of an earlier human presence. How these early groups are related or structured, particularly those with Australasian ancestry, remains unknown.... [there were] multiple independent, geographically uneven migrations into South America. One such migration provides clues of Late Pleistocene Australasian ancestry in South America, [which] contributed to present-day South American ancestry."

"... we find that the Amazonian Surui share a larger proportion of alleles with Australasian groups (represented by Papuans, Australians and Andaman Islanders), with respect to Mixe. Lagoa Santa yielded similar results to those obtained for the Surui. When compared to Mesoamerican groups (Mixe and Huichol), Lagoa Santa also shares a larger proportion of alleles with Australasian groups but not with other Eurasians."

Remarkably, these first wave individuals with Austronesian genes somehow reached South America without leaving any traces in North America: "[a populaton] that harbored an Australasian signal in the Late Pleistocene and reached South America, yet left no apparent traces in North America".

-- New, Sept. 4, 2019 --

I had originally written:

So the facial reconstruction of "Luzia", one of the 12,500 year-old Lagoa Santa crania (and almost lost in the fire that razed the Rio de Janeiro National Museum -fortunately the skull survived) which originally depicted her with an African look now has her looking more Asian:

One of Luzia's relatives - African look has gone. Source

Luzia before, more "African".

Reader feedback:

D. Parker wrote an e-mail to me with the following text:

your source: Notice caption ^^^ does not say that that picture is Luzia.
The Brazilian researchers’ contribution to the study was fundamental. Among the 49 individuals from which fossil DNA was taken, seven skeletons dated to between 10,100 and 9,100 years ago came from Lapa do Santo, a rock shelter in Lagoa Santa. A new bust has replaced Luzia in the Brazilian scientific pantheon. Caroline Wilkinson, a forensic anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK and a disciple of Neave, has produced a facial reconstruction of one of the individuals exhumed at Lapa do Santo. The reconstruction was based on a retrodeformed digital model of the skull.
Estudos genéticos dão nova cara ao Povo de Luzia Representação do fóssil humano mais fa...
Facial reconstruction of the People of Luzia by Caroline Wilkinson of Liverpool John Moores University in England, based on a retroformed digital skull model of the Lapa do Santo archaeological site. The skull used as a reference is from a young man, cataloged as Burial 26.
Also in regard to the Caroline Wilkinson reconstruction. None of the articles, not the one you sourced said the Caroline Wilkinson reconstruction. looks more Asian. The eye fold is not depicted Asian. None of the features are particularly Asian. The nose is not as flat as many Asians. It's true that the ancestors of Native are believed to be Asian but the reconstruction is intended to depict someone looking Native American and though they have Asian ancestry they dont always look exactly like,Asians. People have said it looks racially ambiguous or could even pass for a dark skinned European or Middle Eastern person, Nevertheless these reconstructions include speculation from the forensic artist
D. Parker

I thank Mr. Parker for his comments. And I promise to write a specific post on these Brazilian remains (the whole group).

See this post here:Lagoa Santa sites and remains: old and odd


My remark on the features of the reconstructed face still stands however. The overall impression of the original bust is that of an African, now it is more Eurasian, it does not look like the typical Amerindian people one sees -today- in South America which have distinct features.

-- end of comment--

So the question remains open: where did this signal come from? And why is it not present in North America or Asia? Below is a map from Skoglund's 2015 paper, and the white circles show this lack of Australasian DNA in those regions, and the red and yellow cicles indicate their presence in South America:

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Fuegian Dogs, some photos

Almost ten years ago (Oct. 2009) I posted about the Fuegian dogs -pictured below, said to descend from foxes. At that time I had only managed to get one photo of them, a stuffed specimen at a museum in Punta Arenas Chile. Today I have found several images of Fuegian dogs, which don't look fox like at all!

The photo from my 2009 post:

I have wondered if they were replaced by European dogs after these were introduced by shepherds, and the Selknam adopted the newcomers to replace their extinct breed.

A paper published a year ago in Science (The evolutionary history of dogs in the Americas, Maire Ni Leathlobhair, Angela R. Perri et al., Science 06 Jul 2018:Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 81-85 DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4776) tells us that the Amerindian dogs were wiped out by disease brought to the New World after European discovery and conquest (post 1492 AD). The paper also came up with an intriguing discovery "The closest detectable extant lineage to precontact American dogs is the canine transmissible venereal tumor, a contagious cancer clone derived from an individual dog that lived up to 8000 years ago", but that will be discussed in a separate post.

Below are some of the photos I came across today in the Internet, they are all Selknam dogs. There were other natives in Tierra del Fuego, and their dogs are not depicted here (the Alakaluf, the Haush, the Yaghans or Yamana).

Selknam dogs with surviving Selknam people ca. 1910. (source)

Selknam woman, child and dog:

Selknam hunting with two dogs, and using bows and arrows.

Salesian father Juan Vila, with an embalmed Fuegian dog. Seems very much like the one in the Punta Arenas museum.

Here the Selknam are called "Ona", another name used until recently to designate these people.

Another dog, during a Selknam ritual.

Two dogs.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 

Friday, August 2, 2019

Language diversity (or the lack of it) does not support the Out of Africa theory

The diversity of human languages has been something that has always interested me -maybe I was really impressed back in Sunday school with the Tower of Babel story from the Bible.

But the biblical explanation in Genesis 11:1-9 is in itself an attempt at explaining the origin of the different languages we speak:

(from Genesis 11:1-9 English Standard Version), the bold highlight is mine:
"1. Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.
2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
3 And they said to one another, 'Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.' And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
4 Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.'
5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.
6 And the Lord said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.
7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.'
8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

So the idea of an "original" language which -in this case, due to divine intervention- became many, is very old indeed.

Now we know that languages evolve and change, as is the case of migrating people isolated from each other, even during short periods of time (think about British English and Australian English where "city" is pronounced "siddy" by the Aussies and "sity" by the Brits).

Even one established society as time goes by finds its language modified, an example is the "Great Vowel Shift" in British English between the 1300s and the 1600s, where vowels literally changed as we can see in the following sonnet by William Shakespeare (Sonnet 47):

With my love's picture then my eye doth feast,
And to the painted banquet bids my heart;
Another time mine eye is my heart's guest,
So either by thy picture or my love
Thyself away are resent still with me
For thou not farther than my thoughts canst move
And I am still with them and they with me

Back then, "guest" rhymed with "feast" and "love" with "move"!

Today I came across a paper that tries to use something called "phonemic diversity" to prove the Out of Africa theory of human origins.

It was published by Quentin D. Atkinson in April 2011: Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa, Science 15 Apr 2011: Vol. 332, Issue 6027, pp. 346-349 DOI: 10.1126/science.1199295. And very boldly claims that:

"Here I show that the number of phonemes used in a global sample of 504 languages is also clinal and fits a serial founder–effect model of expansion from an inferred origin in Africa. This result, which is not explained by more recent demographic history, local language diversity, or statistical non-independence within language families, points to parallel mechanisms shaping genetic and linguistic diversity and supports an African origin of modern human languages".

In other words, the further you move away from Africa -according to Atkinson- languages have less phonemes, in a similar manner as bottlenecks restrict genetic diversity, a similar effect affects language.

I am not too sure if I agree with Atkinson's idea, but I didn't have to look too far to find an excellent rebuttal of this theory: Asya Pereltsvaig wrote a great post in her blog which summarizes its detailed analysis as follows:"All in all, the Science article by Atkinson on phomenic diversity seems to be yet another example of shoddy work in which mathematical methods are applied in a simplistic fashion, without any understanding of concepts and phenomena under consideration. Such works produce results that contradicts well-known facts about the nature of human languages, as well as plain common sense".

In fact, there are several language hotspots outside of Africa, such as the Caucasus, Papua New Guinea and, the Americas (yes, the "last" place to be colonized by our errant ancestors -yes Polynesia is younger still, but America is the last big place to have been reached in the purported Out of Africa event).

I haven't been able to find any papers on the evolution of languages, a "clock" that can be used to explain why America supposedly first reached by humans 15 kya has roughly the same diversity as New Guinea which was reached 50 kya or the Caucasus and Southern Asia, which were populated by H. sapiens even earlier!

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2019 by Austin Whittall © 
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