Thursday, 22 December 2011

Lalueza-Fox an Gilbert, “Paleogenomics of Archaic Hominins” (2011)

This article, Paleogenomics of Archaic Hominins, is a maist yuisefu an timeous summary o whit we’ve learned fae “palaeogenomics, a discipline that has begun to revolutionise the study of human evolution” by twa prominent researchers in the field, Carles Lalueza-Fox an M. Thomas P. Gilbert.

There a time line o recent findins, includin:

1997 first Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA sequence;
2006  Neanderthal nuclear DNA sequenced;
2007 Neanderthal FOXP2 gene (crucial tae langage) fund tae be identical tae that o modren humans; Neanderthals fund tae hae reid hair an fair skin;
2008 Neanderthals fund tae be O bluid group;
2010 draft o hale Neanderthal nuclear genome;
2011 detection o ancient hominin gene flow intae modren human genomes warldwide (i.e. Neanderthal in aabody ootside Africa, Denisovan in Australasians an Asians, unidentified ancients in Bushmen an Pygmies).

The authors spick aboot methods, includin the byordnar problems o retrievin relevant data fae the backgrun noise o bacterial DNA, an the risk o modren contamination. They summarise whit we ken fae paleontology o the Neanderthal phenotype, includin the wey the shape o the brain developed fae birth tae adult. (They touch briefly forbye on diet an tools.) They discuss whit we can deduce fae genetics aboot the Neanderthal phenotype, population dispersal an nummers, gene flow atween ancients an modrens, an Neanderthal group structure (a faimly group has been typed, an the males are closely relatit, suggestin a patrilocal social structure; on the ither haun, anither study fund continuity in mitochrondrial DNA ower thoosans o years in yae place). 

Researchers are ay siftin through the Neanderthal genome. “Ultimately, our knowledge of the differences between Neanderthals and us will depend on how well we understand the phenotypic effects of these genetic changes in living organisms.” Yaisin the chimpanzee as a reference pynt, researchers hiv leuked for genes whaur Neanderthals seem tae hae kept an aulder primate form an modrens hae diverged. “The list comprises genes associated with various functions, including metabolism, cranial development, pigmentation, skin physiology, cognition and even sperm movement.” Chynges speceefic tae Neanderthals are faur harder tae pin doon, especially wi a totty sample, sin they could ay be mirages caused be damage or error.

We can leuk forrat tae excitin findins as researchers in this field set aboot the “sequencing of genomes from anatomically modern human samples that date to the Upper Palaeolithic, although this approach will face substantial contamination issues.”

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