Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Earliest European farmers left little genetic mark on modern Europe

11.11.2005


Modern Europeans may largely be descended from ’old stone age’ hunter-gatherers



The farmers who brought agriculture to central Europe about 7,500 years ago did not contribute heavily to the genetic makeup of modern Europeans, according to the first detailed analysis of ancient DNA extracted from skeletons of early European farmers.

The passionate debate over the origins of modern Europeans has a long history, and this work strengthens the argument that people of central European ancestry are largely the descendants of "Old Stone Age," Paleolithic hunter-gatherers who arrived in Europe around 40,000 years ago rather than the first farmers who arrived tens of thousands of years later during the Neolithic Age.


This paper appears in the 11 November 2005 issue of the journal Science published by AAAS the nonprofit science society.

The researchers from Germany, the United Kingdom and Estonia extracted and analyzed DNA from the mitochondria of 24 skeletons of early farmers from 16 locations in Germany, Austria and Hungary. Six of these 24 skeletons contain genetic signatures that are extremely rare in modern European populations. Based on this discovery, the researchers conclude that early farmers did not leave much of a genetic mark on modern European populations.

"This was a surprise. I expected the distribution of mitochondrial DNA in these early farmers to be more similar to the distribution we have today in Europe," said Science author Joachim Burger from Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz in Mainz, Germany.

"Our paper suggests that there is a good possibility that the contribution of early farmers could be close to zero," said Science author Peter Forster from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK.

To get at questions surrounding the ancestry of modern Europeans, the researchers studied mitochondrial DNA from early farmers in Central Europe. Mothers pass mitochondrial DNA to their offspring primarily "as is," without mixing or recombination with mitochondrial DNA from fathers. Mitochondrial DNA, therefore, provides a way for researchers to piece together how closely members of a species are related, using maternal lineages as a guide, explained Burger.

In the new study, the researchers attempted to extract mitochondrial DNA from the skeletons of 56 humans who lived in various parts of Central Europe about 7500 years ago. These ancient humans all belonged to well known cultures that can be identified by the decorations on their pottery -- the Linearbandkeramik (LBK) and the Alföldi Vonaldiszes Kerámia (AVK). The presence of these cultures in Central Europe marks the onset of farming in the region. These farming practices originated in the "Fertile Crescent" of the Near East about 12,000 years ago.

From bones and teeth of these 56 skeletons, the researchers extracted mitochondrial DNA sufficient for analysis from 24 of the skeletons. Six of the 24 early farmers belonged to the "N1a" human lineage, according to genetic signatures or "haplotypes" in their mitochondrial DNA that the researchers studied. These six skeletons are from archeological sites all across central Europe. Few modern Europeans belong to this N1a lineage, and those that do are spread across much of Europe.

The other 18 early farmers belonged to lineages not useful for investigating the genetic origins of modern Europeans because their genetic signatures from the scrutinized region of mitochondrial DNA are widespread in living humans, according to the authors.

Using the tools of population genetics and a worldwide database of 35,000 modern DNA samples, the researchers investigated the genetic legacy of early European farmers based on the fact that six of the 24 early European farmers are from a lineage that is now extremely rare in Europe and around the world.

At least 8 percent of the early farmers belonged to the N1a lineage, according to the researchers who estimate the range was between 8 and 42 percent.

Even this conservative estimate of 8 percent stands in stark contrast to the current percentage of central Europeans who belong to the N1a lineage -- 0.2 percent. This discrepancy suggests that these early farmers did not leave much of a genetic mark on modern Central Europeans, the authors say.

"It’s interesting that a potentially minor migration of people into Central Europe had such a huge cultural impact," said Forster.

Small pioneer groups may have carried farming into new areas of Europe, the authors suggest. Once farming had taken hold, the surrounding hunter-gatherers could have adapted the new culture and then outnumbered the original farmers, diluting their N1a frequency to the low modern level. A range of archeological research supports different aspects of this hypothesis, the authors say.

Alternatively, a different population may have replaced the early farmers in Central Europe, eliminating most of the N1a types, but archaeological evidence for this scenario is scant, according to the authors.

Natasha Pinol | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sciencemag.org
http://www.aaas.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists propose synestia, a new type of planetary object

23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria

23.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Medical gamma-ray camera is now palm-sized

23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>