February 13, 2018

Scandinavian hunter-gatherers had double west-east origins

SHG origins' mystery solved? What about possible Norwegian "EHG-like" genetic influences into Atlantic Europe?

Torsten Günther, Helena Malmström, Emma Svensson, Ayça Omrak et al. Genomics of Mesolithic Scandinavia reveal colonization routes and high-latitude adaptation. bioRXiv 2017 (pre-pub). DOI:10.1101/164400

Scandinavia was one of the last geographic areas in Europe to become habitable for humans after the last glaciation. However, the origin(s) of the first colonizers and their migration routes remain unclear. We sequenced the genomes, up to 57x coverage, of seven hunter-gatherers excavated across Scandinavia and dated to 9,500-6,000 years before present. Surprisingly, among the Scandinavian Mesolithic individuals, the genetic data display an east-west genetic gradient that opposes the pattern seen in other parts of Mesolithic Europe. This result suggests that Scandinavia was initially colonized following two different routes: one from the south, the other from the northeast. The latter followed the ice-free Norwegian north Atlantic coast, along which novel and advanced pressure-blade stone-tool techniques may have spread. These two groups met and mixed in Scandinavia, creating a genetically diverse population, which shows patterns of genetic adaptation to high latitude environments. These adaptations include high frequencies of low pigmentation variants and a gene-region associated with physical performance, which shows strong continuity into modern-day northern Europeans.

Fig. 1:
Mesolithic samples and their genetic affinities – (A) Map of the Mesolithic European samples used in this study. The pie charts show the model-based [16,17] estimates of genetic ancestry for each SHG individual. The map also displays the ice sheet covering Scandinavia 10,000 BP (most credible (solid line) and maximum extend (dashed line) following [10]). Newly sequenced sites are shown in bold and italics, SF11 is excluded from this map due to its low coverage (0.1x). Additional European EHG and WHG individuals used in this study derive from sites outside this map (...)

Intriguingly, Swedish Epipaleolithic peoples (SHG) have the light skin variant in the gene SLC45A2, variant that is now uniformly spread through all Europe and accounts for 15% of the skin color variance in a key Cape Verde study and that was so far attributed solely (or almost solely) to Neolithic farmers (among which it was fixated and who had indeed a very large genetic impact in the European subcontinent). They also have the blue eyes allele, as Western Hunter-Gatherers did. However, if we are to follow, Günther's explanations in this video, the variance of looks in Epipaleolithic Scandinavia was greater than in present day. 


PS- Legend says that when my namesake Fray Luis de León returned to his classroom after five years imprisoned by the Inquisition, he began his class with these words: "As we were saying yesterday..."

Expect less lengthy articles because I really want to use this blog as open notebook, and not spend so much time following news and dissecting them thoroughly, so my style may become a bit more telegraphic. 

I also don't know for how long I will be able to continue blogging, as my personal economic situation is bad and worsening and you never know when police may come and arrest you for saying "fuck the king" or whatever other quite reasonable opinion. We live very troubled times and I'm personally quite bad at winning.

Also my apologies in advance if I fail to quickly approve comments. I usually check my email once per day or so but sometimes I just forget. Please, be patient if that happens: I only censor fascism, racism, sexism and homophobia (and those individuals who have managed to really get on my nerves, and they know who they are). Sadly I have to keep pre-moderating all comments, else the lonely troll will get away with his abuses.


Please, be reasonably respectful when making comments. I do not tolerate in particular sexism, racism nor homophobia. Personal attacks, manipulation and trolling are also very much unwelcome here.The author reserves the right to delete any abusive comment.

Preliminary comment moderation is... ON (your comment may take some time, maybe days or weeks to appear).