Author: AnneH

Polygamous Footprints in Our Genes

The practice of monogamy – the most popular mating practice on the planet today – is nothing new. In fact, anthropologists have found evidence of monogamous relationships in Homo erectus, a human ancestor that lived nearly 2 million years ago. But the alternative to monogamy – polygamy – though not nearly ...

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What it Means to be Human

What is it about humans that distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom?  Is it our upright walking?  Our language?  Our love of Reality TV?  Even though we are said to be 99% genetically identical to our closest evolutionary relative, the chimpanzee, we clearly differ vastly from them physically ...

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More than Just a Parable: The Genetic History of the Samaritans

Upon hearing the name "Samaritans," many people are immediately reminded of the famous passage from the Gospel of Luke (10: 25-37), the so called ‘Good Samaritan’ parable. Jesus tells of a Levite (a Jew) who is beaten and left on the side of the road. None who pass by the injured man stop to help, save a ...

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Recommended Reading: Mapping Human History

For more than a century anthropologists have studied the multitude of cultures and ethnicities that exist across the globe, delving deep into the various ways that populations develop their own unique identities. With the development of genetic anthropology over the last 15 years, scientists have begun to ...

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Is That a Peacock Feather under your Coat … Or are You Just Happy to See Me?

An animal's ability to survive often depends on how well it can avoid predators.  Many species of fish, birds, and mammals have evolved ingenious methods of staying hidden from predators by blending into the background in one form or another.  But what about animals that do the opposite?  How and why would ...

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Genes and Languages: Not So Strange Bedfellows?

Throughout the history of our species there has been one constant:  movement.  Since the origin of Homo sapiens nearly 200,000 years ago in East Africa, humans have journeyed around the globe, ultimately inhabiting every continent save Antarctica.Scientists have traditionally used archaeology, and more ...

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Recommended Reading: “The Seven Daughters of Eve”

If anybody could turn the history of genetic anthropology into a page-turner, it would be Bryan Sykes. Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, has spent the better of part the last 25 years decoding the mystery of our species’ genetic ancestry through mitochondrial DNA analysis. He ...

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The Ultimate Trade-off: Genes, Environment, and Why We Crave Twinkies

Last week in the Spittoon we reported on a new study that identified an interesting genetic trade-off — a genetic variant known that has one effect on a person's vulnerability to malaria, and the opposite on susceptibility to HIV infection. The "Duffy negative" version of the gene, which is common among ...

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I’m No Neanderthal, and Neither Are You

(Ed: Newer research suggests that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals did in fact interbreed. On average, two to four percent of DNA in present-day humans who trace their ancestry from Europe or Asia comes from our Neanderthal cousins. 23andMe customers can check out their own Neanderthal ancestry here! -- ...

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Iceland’s Deadly Disease Mystery

For the past 100 years, there has been a mysterious disease afflicting Icelanders. Called Hereditary Cystatin C Amyloid Angiopathy (or HCCAA), it causes severe brain hemorrhages and dementia in young adults. For those individuals who have the disease, life expectancy is usually no higher than 30 years. ...

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