BAMAD no.17

 DNA and 
 Anthropology Updates 

Updates in DNA studies along with Anthropological Notes of general interest with a particular emphasis on points pertinent to the study of Ancient Israelite Ancestral Connections to Western Peoples as explained in Brit-Am studies.



Brit-Am Anthropology and DNA Update
22 Shebet 5768, 22 January 2008
1. Cultural differences alter brain's hard-wiring
2. Why incest makes us so squeamish
3. The Disappearing Black Sheep in Scotland Riddle
4. "fully three-quarters of the American population is interested in genealogy"
Ancestral Allure by VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN
5. Elephants classify human ethnic groups by odor and garment color

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1. Cultural differences alter brain's hard-wiring
New research finds that social perspective influences how we see the world

2. Why incest makes us so squeamish

3. The Disappearing Black Sheep in Scotland Riddle
Bye, bye dark sheep due to genes, study finds
(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Maggie Fox)
LONDON (Reuters) - The declining number of dark sheep among a wild herd in Scotland comes down to genes, researchers said on Thursday.

The population of the wild Soay sheep on the isolated island of St. Kilda has been virtually unchanged over the past 4,000 years, giving modern-day researchers a unique view into natural selection and evolution.

About three-quarters of the sheep in the herd are dark but their dwindling numbers have puzzled scientists. This is because dark animals tend to be bigger, which should give them an evolutionary advantage to survive harsh winters.

"If being big is good and dark sheep are bigger we would expect the frequency of dark sheep to increase," said Jon Slate, a researcher at the University of Sheffield, who worked on the study published in the journal Science.

"This presents an evolutionary problem."

To solve the riddle the scientists analyzed versions of genes that determined color. Like all animals, sheep inherit one version of each gene from each parent and these sheep can inherit either a gene for a dark coat or a gene for a white coat from each parent.

The researchers determined that the gene for a dark coat is dominant -- dark sheep carry either two dark genes or a dark gene and a light gene.

But they also found that having a light gene boosts fitness so the best combination in evolutionary terms for the sheep is a mix of genes that produce a dark coat.

This explains the decline of dark sheep because those with a pair of dark genes are the least fit, even though they are big, Slate said. The researchers do not know why the light gene confers fitness, he added.

4. "fully three-quarters of the American population is interested in genealogy"
Ancestral Allure by VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN

Sites like, and, with their menus of recondite offerings (frameable certificates, migration maps, the patented Color Track System), make up a deluxe spa for the ego. They promise an end to loneliness and alienation by fixing you with a place in history; and they promise you social promotion by hooking you up with illustrious ghosts, Norman Knights, Igbo priests or at least some guys who worked with Jimmy Cagney.

It should come as no surprise, then, that participants in the forums at are tenacious. They stand to gain a brand-new and newly grandiose sense of self. Combining speed-dating with "Are You My Mother?" urgency, users post information about themselves on open message boards. "Please e-mail me with any data & I will share mine," a typical forum participant writes. Others are more willing to kick things off, showering would-be cousins with information heirlooms in an effort to make existential connections. Turn to the omnibus family-history sites like, and what you find are people craving reunions, major chords, narrative homecomings. According to a 2005 poll, fully three-quarters of the American population is interested in genealogy.

In a 2001 investigation in The New Yorker into his own roots, John Seabrook emphasized the peculiarly American fascination with family stories. The possibility of a big story, one that would ennoble one's own existence, he argued, is what drives many online ancestor-seekers. But Seabrook also described mixed motives: "Genealogy serves two often-incompatible human impulses: the desire for self-knowledge and the desire for status."

This ambivalence is largely absent from today's family-hunters. In the seven years since Seabrook's article, blogs, message boards and reality television have made self-knowledge and status not just compatible, but also part and parcel of each other. Online, status and self-disclosure often amount to the same thing, as acutely personal Web diaries gain credibility in direct proportion to their frankness.

But if you're searching for the ingredients of your personhood in online genealogy, don 't expect to find the whole recipe. Birth, marriage and death records, as well as other plot points maintained by religious or state institutions, turn up fairly frequently, but biographical flourishes ? the career, land deals, ocean crossings and pictures that are the pay dirt of the family historian, can be maddeningly elusive.

For black Americans, even basic records, surnames, to start with - may be hard to secure. Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor who has lately turned his attention to black genealogies, recently started a company,, to help African-Americans create family trees. Part 2 of his enlightening PBS program, "African American Lives," will be televised beginning Feb. 6 on PBS.

The staggeringly extensive International Genealogical Index, created for Mormon eschatological reasons, also suggests to amateurs that resolving identity crises is a few clicks away. Maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and available online at, the sheer number of names, more than a billion, provides not only the assurance that you and yours are being counted, but also the hope that you all might be reunited in this database, online as it is in heaven.

But while optimistic threads on the genealogy sites open all the time, they rarely close. Enervation comes to suffuse many of the queries of genealogy veterans. "I've been searching for a while," one seeker of Flahertys writes, "and have run into that 'wall' you all know so well." Sometimes, even when a seeker has good information, the ancestral river forks so divergently and crookedly that discovering a source seems futile. As one contributor to the Elias family forum at says, "I've noticed lots of Eliases from all over the world, and some from Peru seem to have a relation to Japanese/Chinese heritage in that the surname was changed from Lee or Lo to Elias a few generations ago." Yikes. You can almost hear Google despairing at so many generic and contradictory word-strings.

My own genealogical pursuits were exciting but not very fruitful. I did find one relative. I settled into a Heffernan forum and typed in the name of my paternal grandfather, hoping to find out more about his father's father, who arrived on our shores from Ireland in the 1840s. Amazing! Another Heffernan was looking for information about that same relative, and our intelligence matched exactly! I started to e-mail this guy, eager to compare notes, and then realized there was no need. It was my dad.

5. Elephants classify human ethnic groups by odor and garment color
Lucy A. Bates, Katito N. Sayialel, Norah W. Njiraini, Cynthia J. Moss, Joyce H. Poole, and Richard W. Byrne

Current Biology Volume 17, Issue 22. November 2007
Abstract: Animals can benefit from classifying predators or other dangers into categories, tailoring their escape strategies to the type and nature of the risk. Studies of alarm vocalizations have revealed various levels of sophistication in classification [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. In many taxa, reactions to danger are inflexible, but some species can learn the level of threat presented by the local population of a predator [6, 7, 8] or by specific, recognizable individuals [9, 10]. Some species distinguish several species of predator, giving differentiated warning calls and escape reactions; here, we explore an animal's classification of subgroups within a species. We show that elephants distinguish at least two Kenyan ethnic groups and can identify them by olfactory and color cues independently. In the Amboseli ecosystem, Kenya, young Maasai men demonstrate virility by spearing elephants (Loxodonta africana), but Kamba agriculturalists pose little threat. Elephants showed greater fear when they detected the scent of garments previously worn by Maasai than by Kamba men, and they reacted aggressively to the color associated with Maasai. Elephants are therefore able to classify members of a single species into subgroups that pose different degrees of danger.

See also:
BAMAD Archives
DNA Refuted. The "Cohen Gene"
R1b The Western Japhet?? or not?
haplogroup I
Brit-Am DNA
Queries about Race

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