The diaspora of modern humans across Eurasia — update and revision


Migration routes — Click to enlarge

❝ Most people are now familiar with the traditional “Out of Africa” model: modern humans evolved in Africa and then dispersed across Asia and reached Australia in a single wave about 60,000 years ago. However, technological advances in DNA analysis and other fossil identification techniques, as well as an emphasis on multidisciplinary research, are revising this story. Recent discoveries show that humans left Africa multiple times prior to 60,000 years ago, and that they interbred with other hominins in many locations across Eurasia.

A review of recent research on dispersals by early modern humans from Africa to Asia by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa confirms that the traditional view of a single dispersal of anatomically modern humans out of Africa around 60,000 years ago can no longer be seen as the full story. The analysis, published in the journal Science, reviews the plethora of new discoveries being reported from Asia over the past decade, which were made possible by technological advances and interdisciplinary collaborations, and shows that Homo sapiens reached distant parts of the Asian continent, as well as Near Oceania, much earlier than previously thought. Additionally, evidence that modern humans interbred with other hominins already present in Asia, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, complicates the evolutionary history of our species.

The Max Planck Institute is the gold standard for research into the evolutionary biology of homo sapiens. When original discussions stretched around the world at the turn of the 21st Century, debate and discussion took over a great deal of public and non-institutional dialogue on the latest discussions of evolution. Scuence readers and writers as well as core researchers were all involved.

I spent about 2 years getting my head around the results of the first DNA analysis providing deeper genetic and chronological analysis previously impossible. While spirited debate was often the order of the day – well above the perpetual attempts to educate superstitious folk stuck into biblical fiction – I have rarely so enjoyed the weekly expansion of knowledge rolling out the doors of the Max Planck Institute like tides changing the face of the intellectual Earth after an Ice Age.

Oh, yeah. Between 3 and 4% of my overall DNA is Neanderthal. Never was one of those straight-up white guys. 🙂

China’s “One Belt, One Road” project will profit most of Asia – and probably Europe


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China’s ambition to revive an ancient trading route stretching from Asia to Europe could leave an economic legacy bigger than the Marshall Plan or the European Union’s enlargement, according to a new analysis.

Dubbed ‘One Belt, One Road,’ the plan to build rail, highways and ports will embolden China’s soft power status by spreading economic prosperity during a time of heightened political uncertainty in both the U.S. and EU, according to Stephen L. Jen, the chief executive officer at Eurizon SLJ Capital Ltd., who estimates a value of $1.4 trillion for the project.

It will also boost trading links and help internationalize the yuan as banks open branches along the route…

“This is a quintessential example of a geopolitical event that will likely be consequential for the global economy and the balance of political power in the long run,” said Jen, a former International Monetary Fund economist.

Reaching from east to west, the Silk Road Economic Belt will extend to Europe through Central Asia and the Maritime Silk Road will link sea lanes to Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa [and, eventually, to The Netherlands].

While China’s authorities aren’t calling their Silk Road a new Marshall Plan, that’s not stopping comparisons with the U.S. effort to rebuild Western Europe after World War II.

With the potential to touch on 64 countries, 4.4 billion people and around 40 percent of the global economy, Jen estimates that the One Belt One Road project will be 12 times bigger in absolute dollar terms than the Marshall Plan. China may spend as much as 9 percent of gross domestic product — about double the U.S.’s boost to post-war Europe in those terms.

…There’s no guarantee that potential recipient nations will put their hand up for the aid…Still, at least China has a plan.

“The fact that this is a 30-40 year plan is remarkable as China is the only country with any long-term development plan, and this underscores the policy long-termism in China, in contrast to the dominance of policy short-termism in much of the West,” said Jen.

Sitting in a state – in a country – politically incapable of repairing crumbling infrastructure much less building new, I can only sit and wonder what it might feel like to watch any level of government demonstrate sufficient care and willingness to plan decades ahead.

Genetic evidence of modern human DNA in a Neanderthal — Huh? Wha?

Using several different methods of DNA analysis, an international research team has found what they consider to be strong evidence of an interbreeding event between Neanderthals and modern humans that occurred tens of thousands of years earlier than any other such event previously documented.

…In NATURE the team publishes evidence of interbreeding that occurred an estimated 100,000 years ago. More specifically the scientists provide the first genetic evidence of a scenario in which early modern humans left the African continent and mixed with archaic (now-extinct) members of the human family prior to the migration “out of Africa” of the ancestors of present-day non-Africans, less than 65,000 years ago.

❝ “It’s been known for several years, following the first sequencing of the Neanderthal genome in 2010, that Neanderthals and humans must have interbred,” says Professor Adam Siepel, a co-team leader and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) quantitative biologist. “But the data so far refers to an event dating to around 47,000-65,000 years ago, around the time that human populations emigrated from Africa. The event we found appears considerably older than that event…”

❝ “One very interesting thing about our finding is that it shows a signal of breeding in the ‘opposite’ direction from that already known,” Siepel notes. “That is, we show human DNA in a Neanderthal genome, rather than Neanderthal DNA in human genomes.”

This finding, the result of several kinds of advanced computer modeling algorithms comparing complete genomes of hundreds of contemporary humans with complete and partial genomes of four archaic humans, has implications for our knowledge of human migration patterns.

The article proceeds from this point to examination of several intertwining themes of interbreeding between different strands of the evolutionary vines that tie us all to our species. A worthwhile read.

It also validates a theme long held as strong among my Highland antecedents – whether critical or not – that our species [and any near relative] is ready to have sex with anyone willing to stand still long enough to enjoy it.

Human waste is a wasted potential source of energy


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A concept that needn’t be limited to the Third World

Gas produced by decaying human waste is a potentially major source of energy that could provide electricity for millions of homes while improving sanitary conditions in developing countries…

Biogas is produced when bacteria break down human feces. And it would be worth the equivalent of $9.5 billion in non-renewable natural gas, the United Nations Institute for Water, Environment and Health said on Tuesday.

Residues from treated waste could yield two million tons a year of “solid” fuel worldwide that could reduce charcoal use and the number of trees being felled, which would help in global warming reduction efforts…

In low-income countries, the use of biogas could finance development

Almost a billion people around the world do not have access to toilets, about 60 percent of them in India, and have to relieve themselves outdoors…

If their waste was collected and used to produce biogas, it could generate electricity for 10 million to 18 million households and be worth $200 million to $376 million per year…

Bringing toilets to so many areas also will improve hygiene and public health in these countries. Poor sanitation is to blame for 10 percent of illnesses in developing countries, the researchers said.

“Challenges are many, but clearly there is a compelling, multi-dimensional financial case to be made for deriving energy from waste,” said Chris Metcalfe, one of the authors of the study.

Many states have a few biogas facilities constructed over bulging landfills. I’ve blogged before about at least one gigantic dairy farm that powers all its trucks with biogas from cow manure. Also another source readily available in India, for example. More important, though nations like the United States are generations away from projects like these suggested making economic sense for us – with some of the cheapest natural gas in the world – the cost of transporting natgas to India and Africa makes the concept of human-origins of biogas more than sensible. It becomes affordable.

Tropical virus goes from Zero to 1.24 mIllion cases in the Americas – in 1 year!

In slightly more than a year, the Americas have seen more than 1.24 million cases of chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne disease that causes high fever and debilitating joint pain.

The tropical virus was rare in North, Central, and South America until December 2013, when investigation of suspected dengue virus in the Caribbean island of St. Martin turned up 26 cases of chikungunya, without any sign they had been imported from elsewhere.

As of the end of February 2015, that handful of cases had exploded to 1,247,400 suspected and confirmed cases, affecting almost every country in the hemisphere, according to the Pan-American Health Organization.

Until the end of 2013, chikungunya in the Americas was almost entirely imported from countries in Africa or Asia where the tropical virus was endemic.

In the U.S., most cases are still imported — a cumulative total of some 2,542 since 2013, according to the PAHO, with an additional 11 cases, all in Florida, blamed on local transmission. But most of that transmission now comes from the epidemics raging elsewhere in the region.

The U.S. numbers might be an underestimate…until this year, the virus was not a nationally notifiable disease, so some cases might have been missed.

The virus — the name is pronounced chik-un-GUHN-ya — is carried by mosquitoes, mainly Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, which are widespread in the U.S.

The CDC notes that both species primarily bite in the daytime and urges that travelers take precautions against mosquito bites, including wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, if weather permits, and using insect repellents.

There is no specific treatment for the virus and no vaccine, but its dramatic spread has re-focused the attention of vaccine researchers…

By summertime, some enterprising news-as-entertainment-network will pick up on the fear-factor potential of another disease originating in Africa and take a shot at American Ebola panic to get traffic up on their crappy channel. There have been a few false starts; but, the Philistines haven’t succeeded. Yet.

Meanwhile, support for vaccine studies proceeds at a deliberate pace. Something else for both New Age and Old Testament Luddites to use to up their anti-science game.

The CDC will have – and does have – reasonable safety suggestions. Not unlike the usual sensible practices everywhere insect-borne disease may flourish.

Pic of the Day


Ebola handshake going strong as Ebola cases decrease

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Dr. Peter Graaff, the World Health Organization’s representative in Liberia, are among the first to publicly use the Ebola handshake. It’s a trend that’s catching on.

When this new form of salutation was introduced in disease-torn west Africa in October, it was considered yet another way to temper the Ebola epidemic. Today, bumping elbows, hitting arms and knocking shoes — each considered an Ebola handshake — is the new normal, especially among young men.

It’s not a trend that’s going away anytime soon. As the three hardest hit nations — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — cope with the aftermath of Ebola, some are considering new ways to institute safer health practices. In parts of hard-hit Sierra Leone, where some 3,000 have died from Ebola, the handshake is law…

The Ebola handshake has even spread beyond the borders of Africa. Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was seen using the Ebola handshake.

Maybe this will help us all out with the flu, as well.

Ecopesticides starts field tests of new method to stop crop-destroying insects

A New Mexico startup company has begun field tests to prove they can kill desert locusts in Africa using a natural bio-pesticide technology developed at the University of New Mexico. The company, founded by two UNM physicians, is taking on one of the oldest problems in history, the desert locust swarms that can completely destroy food crops in Africa.

They plan to kill the locusts by getting them to eat fungi that are naturally lethal to them. The idea is to encase the fungi in tiny spheres and spread them on fields of crops. The polymer spheres protect the fungi, which thrive in cool dark, humid places, from the dryness and ultraviolet rays of the desert sun until the locusts arrive in the fields. The locusts begin eating the fungi along with the crops and die.

“It’s all about timing,” Chief Science Officer of Ecopesticides Ravi Durvasula said. “If we could find a way basically to protect those natural compounds, those fungi a little longer – How much longer? A week longer, two weeks longer? We don’t know until we test it in the sites in Africa.

“But if we can have it last a little longer, presumably you would need to use less of it. And in these are subsistence farms, where literally every dollar counts, being able to put it out less frequently, maybe being able to store it a little bit longer would help. So we are trying to develop some heat tolerance as well. It would make a huge difference in this part of the world. And so that’s really the goal…”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is responsible for inspiring two physicians in New Mexico to think about locusts in Africa. The foundation has a major initiative to increase food security in Africa and the opportunity for a grant turned Durvasula and Adam Forshaw’s interest from the human impact of disease carrying insects to the human impact of crop destroying insects.

Durvasula is a physician and the director of the Paratransgenesis Lab in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Health Sciences Center at UNM. His research interest is exploring ways to genetically alter bacteria that can be inserted into insects to interrupt the infectious agent that allows transmission to humans. He began his research and teaching at Yale University more than a decade ago, eventually moving to UNM.

He was pleased to welcome Forshaw, a medical student with a background in chemistry, to his lab in 2012. Forshaw was doing the research portion of his medical degree and together, they went to work to find a way to disrupt the way sandflies transmit Leishmania parasites to humans. Durvasula was able to control the parasite in the laboratory, but the challenge was to control it in the field. Forshaw thought they might be able to use a chemical polymer to create small capsules to encase bacteria that transmit disease into insects.

That’s when the Gates Foundation grant opportunity turned the research in a different direction. Forshaw and Durvasula saw that their interest in controlling parasitic pests could be shifted to controlling crop destroying pests.

RTFA for more about how these two medical doctors transformed their research from infectious diseases to providing enough food to bring folks a healthy life.

Here’s the website home for Ecopesticides to check our their commitment and mssion.

School officials sued for banning girl – they were afraid of (you guessed it) Ebola


Connecticut’s Democrat governor proves he can be as dumb as any Tea Party Republican

A Connecticut father sued a school district for barring his daughter from class because of fear she may be infected with Ebola after a trip to a family wedding in Nigeria, in what may be the first such U.S. lawsuit over the virus.

Stephen Opayemi said he and his 7-year-old daughter, who is in the third grade, returned to the U.S. Oct. 13. He was told by Milford School Superintendent Elizabeth Feser that his daughter would be removed by the police if she went to school Oct. 20, according to a complaint filed yesterday in New Haven federal court.

Actually…on Oct. 20, Nigeria was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization after no new cases were reported in 42 days…

Opayemi said his daughter didn’t have a fever or other symptoms of Ebola, and that he offered to have them both tested for it. He accused the school district of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying access to an education. He seeks damages for her emotional trauma and an order allowing her to return to school immediately.

Feser denied the suit’s allegations, blah, blah, blah!

Throughout the GOUSA, the safe qualification for school administration continues to be ignorance.

It helps when you’re backed up by an governor who has “quarantined” more people than any other US official. Even when they’ve tested negative for ebola.

The Western media focus on Ebola

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The Western media circus has lapped up the Ebola epidemic and paraded it around as its newest act. It’s everywhere you look — stories about “necessary” precautions, tales of children and even police cars under quarantine, fear that the disease has spread to other parts of the country. And it all has one singular focus: America and the West.

André Carrilho, an illustrator and cartoonist based in Lisbon whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and New York magazine, chose to play up this disparity in an August illustration, drawn shortly after two white missionaries stricken with Ebola were admitted to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Thanks, Mike