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A new look at Ötzi the Iceman’s DNA reveals new ancestry and other surprises

A brand new take a look at the Iceman’s DNA reveals that his ancestors weren’t who scientists beforehand thought.

In 2012, scientists compiled a whole image of Ötzi’s genome; it urged that the frozen mummy discovered melting out of a glacier within the Tyrolean Alps had ancestors from the Caspian steppe (SN: 2/28/12). However one thing didn’t add up.

The Iceman is about 5,300 years previous. Different individuals with steppe ancestry didn’t seem within the genetic report of central Europe till about 4,900 years in the past. Ötzi “is just too previous to have that sort of ancestry,” says archaeogeneticist Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. The mother “was all the time an outlier.”

Krause and colleagues put collectively a brand new genetic instruction guide for the Iceman. The previous genome was closely contaminated with fashionable individuals’s DNA, the researchers report August 16 in Cell Genomics. The brand new evaluation reveals that “the steppe ancestry is totally gone.”

However the Iceman nonetheless has oddities. About 90 p.c of Ötzi’s genetic heritage comes from Neolithic farmers, an unusually excessive quantity in contrast with different Copper Age stays, Krause says.

The Iceman’s new genome additionally reveals he had male-pattern baldness and far darker pores and skin than inventive representations counsel. Genes conferring gentle pores and skin tones didn’t change into prevalent till 4,000 to three,000 years in the past when early farmers began consuming plant-based diets and didn’t get as a lot vitamin D from fish and meat as hunter-gathers did, Krause says.

As Ötzi and different historical individuals’s DNA illustrate, the pores and skin coloration genetic adjustments took hundreds of years to change into commonplace in Europe.

“Those that lived in Europe between 40,000 years in the past and eight,000 years in the past have been as darkish as individuals in Africa, which makes quite a lot of sense as a result of [Africa is] the place people got here from,” he says. “We’ve got all the time imagined that [Europeans] grew to become light-skinned a lot quicker. However now it appears that evidently this occurred truly fairly late in human historical past.”

Tina Hesman Saey

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior employees author and reviews on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington College in St. Louis and a grasp’s diploma in science journalism from Boston College.

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