March 04, 2008

AAPA 2008 abstracts

The 2008 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists will take place this April, and the book of abstracts for the conference is online in pdf format. As usual, there is a great variety of exciting research to be announced in the meeting; here is my sampling thereof:

A seemingly very important new piece of work on Central Anatolia:

O. Gokcumen et al., The Land of the Tired Ox: Ethnogenetic Insights into Rural Central Anatolian Population History
Excerpt: "For example, in one study area in the vicinity of Ankara, we have observed at least four distinct groups based on historical and ethnographic observations. Their self-claimed ancestries trace back to Afsar, Kurdish, Caucasian Cherkess, and Karaman groups. These groups came into the same area from different source regions and at different moments in history. Indeed, our data indicate that there were significant disparities between the paternal and maternal genetic diversity among these groups. These data also allow us to more accurately reconstruct the population history of the study area, as well as begin to provide new perspectives on the regional history of Central Anatolia in relation to historical Turkic invasions and perhaps the Neolithic transition. Finally, we discuss the utility of a more focal and detailed sampling approach for elucidating Anatolian population history."

I can only hope that more researchers will look into historical processes that have shaped modern populations. Too often I see research published which tries to infer human prehistory from modern populations, seemingly oblivious to the complex set of events in historical time that have shaped these populations. Anatolia, so often discussed in the context of the origin of the Neolithic is a prime example of this, as it contains multiple layers of population settlement and ethnic change.

M. C. Dulik et al. Y-chromosome variation in Altaian ethnic groups
Excerpt: "A large portion of all Altaian haplotypes belonged to haplogroup R. Differences in haplogroup frequency between the northern and southern Altaian populations were also observed, with more individuals from northern groups belonging to haplogroups N and Q, and haplogroup C being more prevalent in southern populations. In addition, there were village level patterns of NRY variation, while the overall diversity of NRY haplotypes suggested a significant cultural influence on the partitioning of genetic variation (i.e., patrilocality)."
The three elements involved in Siberian prehistory are indeed haplogroup R, in particular R1a1 which (in my opinion) represents the Western-derived Caucasoid element of likely Iranic affiliation, haplogroups N and Q which represent the Palaeo-Mongoloid element indigenous to Siberia and which has radiated from Siberia to the west (in the case of N) and to the east and into the Americas (in the case of Q), and the Mongoloid proper element which is associated with haplogroup C in this region, and which reflects the Eastern-derived movements of Mongoloid(-influenced) Altaic speakers such as the Mongols.

L. Pipes et al. Analysis of mtDNA in Mongolian Populations

J. Hawks. "Adaptive evolution of human hearing and the appearance of language"
Language requires not only a detailed anatomical and neurological system of language production, but also a highly adapted system of reception. Considering the frequency and amplitude range of human speech, the necessity of perceiving a large number of distinct speakers, the extended life history of humans, the need for children to learn phonemic distinctions at an early age, and the spatial distances covered by vocal communication in humans compared to other primates, it is likely that humans have distinctive auditory adaptations to language. This study tests the hypothesis of selection on the human auditory system, by interspecific genomic comparisons and genome-wide selection scans in living people. A set of hearing-related human genes shows clear signs of recurrent selected substitutions in humans compared to chimpanzees and macaques. These recurrent substitutions may have occurred at any time during human evolutionary history, but they were repeated with several selected variants for each gene. A smaller set of genes shows signs of significant population differentiation within the past 50,000 years, due to recent strong selection. Further, a relatively large set of hearing-related genes have segregating variants under recent strong selection in one or more human populations. These genes reflect continuing selection on hearing within the last 2000—3000 years. Together, these results suggest that human vocal communication exerted repeated selection pressures on the auditory system, that the system of human language continued to evolve during the Late Pleistocene, and that humans may still be adapting to language.
It seems that Hawks et al. paper on accelerated recent human evolution was just the beginning...

B.E. Hemphill. Are the inhabitants of Madaklasht an emigrant Persian population in northern Pakistan?: a dental morphometric investigation.
The answer: "Madaklasters share closest affinities to prehistoric Central Asians and more distant affinities to prehistoric inhabitants of the Iranian Plateau. Such results support the claim that the inhabitants of Madaklast are an intrusive population into Pakistan whose origins most likely may be found in northeastern Afghanistan and Tajikistan."

Someone should look at their genes. Human history is a giant jigsaw puzzle and it is populations that differ from their neighbors and came from somewhere else that allow us to catch a glimpse of the past (in this case prehistoric Central Asia).

N. Seguchi. "Re-analysis of the ainu-samurai hypothesis using population genetic analysis."
The conclusion: "The result shows that the Kamakura ties to the Ainu first, before it ties to the other ethnic Japanese. In addition, the Kamakura group shows more variability,indicating that the Kamakura group may have experienced significantly more gene flow. This indicates the Ainu-derived people who lived in East Japan at that time made a genetic contribution to the warrior class of Kamakura."
J. K. Rilling et al. "Abdominal depth as a principal determinant of human female attractiveness."
Excerpt: "Multiple linear regression analysis revealed that the depth of the lower torso at the umbilicus, or abdominal depth, was the strongest predictor of attractiveness, stronger than either BMI or WHR, and that its impact was significantly greater for video and side view stimuli in which it was clearly visible compared with front and back view stimuli. Women with shallow abdominal depth are more likely to be healthy, fertile and non-pregnant, suggesting that this may be an adaptive male preference that has been shaped by natural selection."

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