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First Published: September 24: 2015
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Palaeontology


Virologist Ms Mari Toppinen: University of Helsinki: Image: Uzi Varon

Once upon a time there was life
How did it live how did it die or
How it grew young or old or how
It fought to live you ask dig out
Out the bones look for the marks

Munayem Mayenin: November 10, 2015

Study and You Shall Learn: The Cheddar Man Says: The Ancient DNA Shows Migrants Introduced Farming to Britain From Europe

 

 

|| Sunday: April 28: 2019: UCL News || ά. Farming was brought to Britain by migrants from continental Europe and not adopted by pre-existing hunter-gatherers, indicates a new ancient DNA Study, led by UCL and the Natural History Museum, in collaboration with Harvard University. The Study, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, examines the DNA from 47 Neolithic, New Stone Age, farmer skeletons, dating from 6,000 to 4,500 years ago and six Mesolithic, Middle Stone Age, hunter-gatherer skeletons from the preceding period, 11,600-6,000 years ago, including, the Cheddar Man, the oldest, near-complete human skeleton found in Britain.

Professor Mark Thomas, UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment, an author of the Study, said, “The transition to farming marks one of the most important technological innovations in human evolution. It first appeared in Britain around 6,000 years ago; prior to that people survived by hunting, fishing and gathering. For over 100 years archaeologists have debated, if, it was brought to Britain by immigrant continental farmers or, if, was adopted by local hunter-gatherers. Our Study strongly supports the view that immigrant farmers introduced agriculture into Britain and largely replaced the indigenous hunter-gatherers populations.”

In continental Europe it is now known that farming was spread by migrating farmer populations, who, ultimately, originated in regions around the Aegean Sea, albeit, with some mixing with indigenous hunter-gatherers. Starting around 8,000 years ago, they expanded throughout continental Europe along two main corridors: the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhine-Danube axis of Central Europe.

“But Britain is a strange case.” said Dr Tom Booth, Archaeologist at the Natural History Museum:NHM and co-author of the Study. “Firstly, farming was practised for up to 1,000 years on the other side of the English Channel before it came to Britain, providing plenty of time for British hunter-gatherers to have adopted agriculture through interactions with their continental neighbours; a view, that many archaeologists hold today. And, secondly, prior to our Study, nobody had read the DNA of those British hunter-gatherers, to see, if, they had persisted and adopted farming practices themselves.”

Dr Selina Brace, ancient DNA researcher at the NHM and lead author of the Study said, “After extracting DNA from Cheddar Man’s inner ear bone, we were delighted at the preservation of his DNA. It’s likely that the cool dry burial conditions in Gough’s Cave were a key factor in keeping his DNA preserved.’’

“We found that British Mesolithic hunter-gatherers were closely related to other hunter-gatherers living previously in Western Europe and shared some aspects of their appearance.” said co-author, Dr Yoan Diekmann, UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment. “Like their Mesolithic continental relatives, they had, typically, dark skin but light eye pigmentation.”

Professor Thomas said, “After 6,000 years ago we only see farmers in Britain and their ancestry is different. Not only do they have predominantly the same Aegean ancestry as other continental farmers but, our data suggest that ancestry came to Britain via the Mediterranean corridor.”

Professor Ian Barnes, ancient DNA expert at the NHM and co-author of the Study, said, “Because continental farmer populations had mixed to some extent with local hunter-gatherers as they expanded along both the Mediterranean and Rhine-Danube corridors, as well as, later, we expected to see some mixing in Britain as well.”

To our surprise and, with the exception of a few individuals in Scotland, we see little genetic evidence of ancestry from Cheddar Man and British Mesolithic hunter-gatherers in early British farmers or, indeed, later. It is difficult to say why this is but, it, may be, that those last British hunter-gatherers were relatively few in number. Even, if, these two populations had mixed completely, the ability of adapt continental farmers and their descendants to maintain larger population sizes would produce a significant diminishing of hunter-gatherer ancestry over time.”

Co-author Professor David Reich, a Harvard Geneticist said, “By studying ancient DNA, we see that 90% of Britain’s population was replaced about 4,500 years ago by large-scale population movement from the continent and this new Study shows a more dramatic 99% replacement a millennium and a half earlier. This means that Briton’s derive only about a thousandth of their ancestry from the hunter-gatherers, who inhabited the island ~6,000 years ago, highlighting, how people living in any one place today are rarely the primary descendants of the people, who lived in the same place in the deep past.”

While the new Study answers the old question of whether farming was brought to Britain by continental farmers, it does not answer the question of why it took so long for farming populations to move into Britain after arriving in northwest continental Europe.

The researchers say that it, may be, to do with climate, technology or, perhaps, social factors. The megalith-building cultures to which the British Neolithic belongs have a peculiarly maritime focus and emerge out of western France just before the beginning of the Neolithic in Britain.

Dr Brace said, “We see evidence for at least two populations of farmers entering Britain from different parts of continental Europe around the same time. After a thousand years of gazing across the Channel, it is curious to wonder what changed in the circumstances of these farmers, which meant that Britain was suddenly seen to be worth the hassle.”:::ω.

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In Search of Darwin’s Rabbits: Or Rather Their Bones: Or Better Still Their DNAs and the Mechanism of Their Developing Resistance to Myxomatosis Through Natural Selection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

|| February 18: 2019: University of Manchester News || ά. Nearly, seventy years after Myxomatosis decimated the rabbit populations of Australia, Britain and France, a new Study shows how the species has evolved genetic resistance to the disease through natural selection. This unprecedented Study of rabbit DNA, spanning 150 years and thousands of miles has shown the genetic basis for the animal’s fightback against the deadly myxoma virus. Using the latest technology, an international team of researchers, which included Dr Liisa Loog from the University of Manchester and led by the University of Cambridge and CIBIO Institute in Porto, extracted DNA from nearly 200 rabbits, dating from 1865-2013, including, one, owned by Charles Darwin.

The scientists, then, sequenced nearly 20,000 genes to pinpoint mutations, that have emerged since the Myxomatosis pandemics of the 1950s. The Study, published in the journal Science, establishes that modern rabbits in Australia, the UK and France have acquired resistance to Myxomatosis through the same genetic changes. The scientists, also, discovered that this resistance relies on the cumulative impact of multiple mutations of different genes. Three, particularly, significant mutations were discovered in the IFN-alpha 21A gene, which sets off a protein-based alarm in rabbit cells, when a virus is detected.

In the lab, the researchers produced the form of the protein found in rabbits in the 1950s and the different form found today. Lead Author of the Paper Mr Joel Alves said, “We compared rabbits, collected before the virus outbreak in the 1950s with modern populations, that evolved resistance and found that the same genes had changed in all three countries. Many of these genes play a key role in the rabbit immune system. Often, evolution works through big changes in single genes but our findings show that resistance to Myxomatosis likely evolved through lots of small effects spread across the genome.”

Professor Francis Jiggins, Senior Author of the Paper, from Cambridge’s Department of Genetics, said, “We sent these proteins into battle with different strains of the virus and that’s when we saw, on a molecular level, how rabbits have been fighting back over all these years.”

Australia unleashed Myxomatosis on an out of control rabbit population in 1950. The European rabbit is thought to have been introduced to the country by Thomas Austin, an English settler, in the 1850s. Within a century, they numbered hundreds of millions. The species wreaked havoc on Australia’s native plants and animals but in less than three months, Myxomatosis had spread 2,000 km and killed 99 per cent of infected animals. In 1952, the virus was illegally introduced in France and in 1953 it reached the UK, leading to similarly devastating results in both countries.

Scientists soon began tracking the evolution of both the virus and the rabbits and in all three countries, they observed a substantial drop in fatality rates. They concluded that this was due to the disease becoming less virulent but, also, rabbits becoming more resistant. Animal populations exhibit considerable genetic variation in susceptibility to infection, which allows for rapid evolution of resistance, when exposed to new diseases.

The pandemics of the 1950s triggered a, particularly, intense process of natural selection. Those initial findings have become a textbook example of host-parasite co-evolution but this new study offers a far more detailed picture of what has been happening in rabbits.

The researchers collected historical samples from 11 natural history museums in the UK, France, Australia and the United States. One of the rabbits, from which DNA was sequenced belonged to Charles Darwin and is now housed in London’s Natural History Museum.

Mr Joel Alves said, “It wasn’t easy to get samples from so many long-dead rabbits. Not all natural history museums keep rabbits because they are not very exotic compared to other species. But the museums we worked with have done a great job of keeping their specimens well preserved for decades. This and the availability of new technology gave us a unique opportunity.”

At a time, when rabbit populations are collapsing across the UK and mainland Europe, this research, may, provide clues to the animal’s future. The researchers found that the protein, that helps rabbits fend off the Myxoma virus, also, has an anti-viral effect on an unrelated virus, called, vesicular stomatitis. Mr Miguel Carneiro, from CIBIO, University of Porto, said, “While battling Myxoma, rabbits, may, have increased their resistance to other viruses, including, perhaps, rabbit haemorrhagic disease, which is killing so many animals right now.”

Meanwhile, Myxoma remains a serious threat to rabbits. “Viral evolution appears to be finding ways to counter the genetic adaptations, which we’ve observed. Recent, more virulent recent strains of Myxoma virus, have been found to be extremely immune-suppressive. So, the arms race goes on.” Mr Joel Alves said.:::ω.

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100 Million-Year-Old Fossilised Fish Slime Shakes Up the Human Family Tree

 

 

 

|| January 27: 2019: University of Manchester News || ά. An international team of palaeontologists, including, researchers from the University of Manchester, have uncovered evolutionary secrets hidden in the 100-million-year-old fossil of a hagfish, a slimy, eel-like scavenger, that lived in an ancient ocean. Researchers from the University of Chicago identified the first detailed fossil of a hagfish along with scientists from Manchester. The Manchester team was led by Professor Phil Manning and Professor Roy Wogelius, who used powerful x-rays, generated at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, a cyclic particle accelerator to scan a unique fossil.

The results have helped answer questions on when these ancient, jawless fish branched-off the vertebrate evolutionary tree. The discovery is incredibly important as it changes our view of the evolutionary lineage, that gave rise to modern-day jawed vertebrates, from bony fish to humans. The research is being published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The fossil, named, Tethymyxine Tapirostrum, was discovered in Lebanon and is a 30 cm long jawless fish, embedded in a piece of Cretaceous Period limestone.

Professor Manning, the Chair of Natural History at the University of Manchester, said, “This is an extremely significant discovery as it recalibrates our understanding of the evolutionary history of all early vertebrates, an ancestral line, that leads to all jawed beasties, including us Humans!

This wonderful fossil plugs a 100-million-year gap in the fossil record and shows that hagfish are more closely related to the lamprey than to other fishes. The chemical maps produced at SSRL enabled our team to see, for the first time, the anatomical features so crucial to the interpretation of this very distant relative.”

Lampreys are another form of ancient, blood-sucking, jawless fish, also, still in existence today. These findings show that both the hagfish and lamprey evolved their eel-like body form and strange feeding systems after they branched off from the rest of the vertebrate line of ancestry about 500 million years ago.

Dr Tetsuto Miyashita, a Fellow in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at Chicago, who led the research, said, “This is a major reorganisation of the family tree of all fish and their descendants. This allows us to put an evolutionary date on unique traits, that set hagfish apart from all other animals.”

Hagfish have a unique defense mechanism in the wild to ward off ocean predators. When being hunted in the sea, they can instantly turn the water around them into a cloud of slime, clogging the gills of would-be predators, such as sharks. It was this ability to produce slime that made Tethymyxine fossil all the more important and rare.’’

The discrete chemistry locked within the fossil could only be mapped using synchrotron-based imaging techniques developed by the Manchester:SSRL team. Manchester is an established world leader in the synchrotron-based imaging of fossil remains. This technique has permitted the team to identify the ‘chemical ghost’ of the preserved soft tissue and slime glands of the fossil. Soft tissues are rarely preserved as fossils, which is why there are so few examples of ancient hagfish relatives to study.

The scanning picked up a signal for keratin, the same material, that makes up fingernails in humans. Keratin is a crucial part of what makes the hagfish slime defence so effective.

Professor Wogelius, the Chair of Geo-chemistry at the University of Manchester, said, ‘’Our team at Manchester has been using these increasingly sophisticated imaging techniques to help us better understand ancient fossils and resolve chemistry derived from both the organism and the environment in which they were preserved.”

Professor Manning said, ‘’This ‘chemical’ fossil has offered new and exciting evidence that has enabled a more robust reconstruction of the vertebrate family tree. However, it was, only, made possible through the collaboration of an international team, as Darwin, once, said, ‘’In the long history of humankind and animal kind, too, those, who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.’’

Caption: Modern Hag Fish: Image: University of Manchester:::ω.

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Year Delta Arkive 2018-19

Year Gamma Arkive 2017-18

Year Beta Arkive 2016-17

Year Alpha Arkive 2015-16

Life's Laurel Is You In One-Line-Poetry A Heaven-Bound Propagated Ray Of Light Off The Eye Of The Book Of Life: Love For You Are Only Once

 

 

Life: You Are The Law The Flow The Glow: In Joys In Hurts You Are The Vine-Songs On The Light-Trellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

|| All copyrights @ The Humanion: London: England: United Kingdom || Contact: The Humanion: editor at thehumanion.com || Regine Humanics Foundation Ltd: reginehumanics at reginehumanicsfoundation.com || Editor: Munayem Mayenin || First Published: September 24: 2015 ||
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