BAMAD no.48

 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.


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BAMAD no. 48
Brit-Am Anthropology and DNA Update
9th March 2009, 13 Adar 5769
1. Mice Prove that the Same Color Change may be Unrelated to a Common Ancestry!
2. Distance from Africa, not climate explains human variation.
3. White "Black" Africans in South Africa
Are albinos smarter?

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1. Mice Prove that the Same Color Change may be Unrelated to a Common Ancestry!
The genetics of skin pigmentation in beach mice from different beaches
The Genetic Basis of Phenotypic Convergence in Beach Mice: Similar Pigment Patterns but Different Genes

Brit-Am Summarization:

The somewhat complicated language of the Abstract below tells us that different types of mice in a specific area change their coloring in accordance to the environment. They change their coloring in the same way even though they are not related to each other. A certain type of mice in one area may be of the same type as that somewhere else but his coloring could be different. His coloring in effect could be the same as that of other mice in his same region who from other considerations may be of an entirely different type.

Cynthia C. Steiner, Holger R?pler, Linda M. Boettger, Torsten Sch?eberg and Hopi E. Hoekstra
Molecular Biology and Evolution 2009 26(1):35-45
Abstract: Convergent evolution is a widespread phenomenon seen in diverse organisms inhabiting similar selective environments. However, it is unclear if similar phenotypes are produced by the same or different genes and mutations. Here we analyze the molecular mechanisms underlying convergent pigment pattern among subspecies of the beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus) inhabiting the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida. In these two geographic regions, separated by more than 300 km, "beach mice" have lighter colored coats than do their mainland counterparts, produced by natural selection for camouflage against the pale coastal sand dunes. We measured color pattern in eight beach mouse subspecies and showed that three of the Gulf Coast subspecies are more phenotypically similar to an Atlantic coast subspecies than to their Gulf Coast neighbors. However, light-colored beach mice do not form a monophyletic group. Previous results implicated a single derived amino acid change in the melanocortin-1 receptor (Mc1r) as a major contributor to pigment pattern in the Gulf Coast beach mice; despite phenotypic similarities, the derived Mc1r allele was not found in the Atlantic coast beach mouse populations. Here we show that Atlantic coast beach mice have high levels of Mc1r polymorphism but they lack unique alleles. Functional assays revealed that single amino acid mutations segregating in Atlantic coast beach mice do not cause any change in Mc1r activity compared with the activity of Mc1r from dark-colored mice. These joint results show that convergent pigment patterns in recently diverged beach mouse subspecies, whose developmental constraints are presumably similar, have evolved through a diversity of genetic mechanisms.

2. Distance from Africa, not climate explains human variation.
Brit-Am Summarization:
The variation considered here refers to physical changes rather than color. We hold this is determined by environment.
"Environment" includes location i.e. where one is on the planet earth has an effect of its own.

 Distance from Africa, not climate explains human variation.
Lia Betti, Francis Balloux, William Amos, Tsunehiko Hanihara, Andrea Manica
Proc Roy Soc B Early online
Abstract: The relative importance of ancient demography and climate in determining worldwide patterns of human within-population phenotypic diversity is still open to debate. Several morphometric traits have been argued to be under selection by climatic factors, but it is unclear whether climate affects the global decline in morphological diversity with increasing geographical distance from sub-Saharan Africa. Using a large database of male and female skull measurements, we apply an explicit framework to quantify the relative role of climate and distance from Africa. We show that distance from sub-Saharan Africa is the sole determinant of human within-population phenotypic diversity, while climate plays no role. By selecting the most informative set of traits, it was possible to explain over half of the worldwide variation in phenotypic diversity. These results mirror those previously obtained for genetic markers and show that "bones and molecules" are in perfect agreement for humans.

3. White "Black" Africans in South Africa
Are albinos smarter?
Steve Sailer asks whether albinos are smarter. He points to a 1997 New York Times article on albinism in southern Africa:

John M. Makumbe is a professor of political science. Richard Nyathi is chief librarian for a Government ministry. Stanley S. Gunda is a senior financial officer in another ministry. Not so long ago, they might have been killed at birth.

Messrs. Makumbe, Nyathi and Gunda are albinos. In Africa, far more than on any other continent, that is a lifelong curse. They lack the gene that codes the skin pigment melanin, and they are very nearsighted. As white-skinned men in a black society, they are shunned and feared as the products of witchcraft, taunted by children and drunks as ''peeled potatoes,'' ''monkeys'' and ''ghosts.''

There is a stereotype that all albinos are intelligent and accomplished, as these three men are. But Professor Makumbe said successful albinos were ''a teeny-weeny minute number. "Most, he added, languish at home without education because they cannot see the blackboard at school or because their parents, told such children die young, will not pay for their schooling."

All three men did well in school, despite vision problems. The genetic differences that cause albinism also change the connections between the optic nerves and the brain. Many albinos have nystagmus -- ''dancing eyeballs'' -- and myopia that, even with thick glasses, can only be corrected to about 20-200.

''Albinos seem more intelligent because they try harder,'' Mr. Nyathi said. ''You have to get out of your seat, go up to the board, squint, write two sentences, go back, and still finish the test in the same time as the others.''

Interestingly, the medical literature used to assume that albinism produces mental retardation. Not only are albinos not retarded, they actually seem to do better than average. Manganyl et al. (1974) found they had higher levels of intellectual maturity than participants in a control group. Fulcher et al. (1995) similarly observed significantly higher achievement among albinos in reading, spelling, and arithmetic skills.

Nonetheless, standard IQ tests show no difference between albinos and controls (Beckham 1946; Estrada-Hernandez & Harper 2007; Fulcher et al. 1995; Kutzbach et al. 2008). It looks like albinos have the same intellectual potential but make better use of it.

This seems to be Dr. Kromberg's explanation: ''Albinos have normal I.Q.'s but a higher capability. I think it's because they don't play in the sun all day. They stay inside and do their homework.''

On the other hand, IQ tests do not measure all aspects of intellectual performance. This is notably the case with ?executive function,? i.e., the ability to resist habit, the speed at which you can change the focus of your attention or the contents of your working memory, and the speed at which you can change your goals and respond appropriately. If we look at differences in these functions between identical twins, about 86% to 100% of the variability seems to be heritable (Friedman et al., in press).

Looking through the anthropological literature, I came across two references for higher intellectual attainment among albinos, and one for lower attainment:

Albinos are smart, clean, nice, and pretty. There is nothing wrong with them. [comments from traditional Hopis] (Woolf & Dukepoo 1969)

Some people think that we are useless because of our poor eyesight and skin condition. Others think we are idiots [Comments from Dominican Republic albinos] (Westhoff 1993)

... The mentality of Moon-children [albino Cuna Indians] appears to be normal, and no less than 14 of them have competed in formal school classes. It is a common belief among the Cuna that since they are unable to compete physically, they strive that much harder to succeed intellectually. (Keeler 1953)

For what it's worth, the last reference also mentioned an apparent difference in head shape:

Head shape of Moon-children appears to be brachycephalic in a higher percentage than normal. No statistical data on this subject were collected, but in addition to my own observations the Indians themselves have remarked about this apparent correlation. (Keeler 1953)

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