Animation of the structure of a section of DNA. The bases lie horizontally between the two spiraling strands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Genetic ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ Uncovered – that was the headline.
This is an attention-grabbing lead, I guess…if you’ve been anxiously awaiting such clarification, or obfuscation, however this reads out for you.
The opening paragraph:
“Almost every man alive can trace his origins to one man who lived about 135,000 years ago, new research suggests. And that ancient man likely shared the planet with the mother of all women.”
Yes…”that ancient man likely shared the planet with the mother of all women.” Well, there goes any idea of inter-planetary sex, and with it, a load of science fiction writing, as well as a boat load of basement-based believers that aliens had something to do with human beings populating the earth without any cosmic nudge.
The journal Science presented this in an article “The 10 Biggest Myths of the First Humans” in today’s issue (Aug 1). And, it’s about time.
I was getting so frustrated with earlier research suggesting that men’s most common ancestor lived just 50,000 to 60,000 years ago.
I was feeling like a bit marginalized, feeling like a bit player who arrived late on the world stage, without a clue what my lines or cues were or are.
But, all is well, after meandering through this article by Tia Ghose, staff writer for LiveScience.com.
Research Team (Photo credit: shareski)
These researchers, taking scientific stuff like mutation rates and archaeological events, such as migrating people and populations into account, have concluded all males in their global sample (69 men from seven racially and geographically separated ethnic groups) share a single male ancestor in Africa from roughly 125,000 to 156,000 years ago.
Now, that 33,000 year window may seem a lot to commoners like myself and others like me, but once the numbers get this long, it’s pretty much passed over with a shrug, if that.
These researchers also took women into account, which seems appropriate, since they’re discussing the origins of Man. Women are easier, when it comes to this kind of research, due to the way their genetic lines die out when not directly passed on. The research presented revealed – Revealed… – that from a sample group of 24 women, they all trace back to one mitochondrial Eve, who lived in Africa 99,000 to 148,000 years ago – “…almost the same time period during which the Y-chromosome Adam lived,” the article says. See what I mean about 30,000 years here… 40,000 years there…it all adds, I guess, but adds up to what?
This is where religions come in handy…a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end…which, in the end, is all most readers are expecting. Give me a bored god figure, a mud man, a companion conjured from bone fragment, and let the plot get fuzzy, since incest questions always make me queasy, and are best skirted. And why not throw a talking snake, a magic tree, some tragic apples, and a few other fantastic plot devices in as well. This sure simplifies things, if one considers that sort of story simple.
The author addresses the time issue as “…this small overlap in time…” before going on to say our ancient Adams and Eves “…probably didn’t even live near each other, let alone mate.” Melissa Wilson Sayres, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkely, added – “Those two people didn’t know each other.”
playing in the captive whirlwind.jpg (Photo credit: opacity)
This is beginning to sound like human behavior hasn’t changed much in 200,000 years…people pro-creating on the fly, not living near each other, or knowing each other. At least some of us wake up the next morning knowing we’ve mated, and maybe deposited some genes into that most crowded of pools.
But, that’s where things often start to get weird.
“It’s very exciting,” Wilson Sayres told LiveScience.com. “As we get more populations across the world, we can start to understand exactly where we came from physically.”
Well, I know where I’m coming from physically…and it has to do with waking up and seeing this bit of jarring news. So, I go for more coffee, a short pit-stop, tell my wife, “Yes…I’ll help with the laundry, as soon as I’m done with this monumentally important post,” and I come back to this:
“The Science Behind Delivering a 13.5 Pound Baby ” – a feed from The Week.
Whoaaaa ! ! ! And here I thought my mother was the champeen Big Baby deliverer. Her first child – me – weighed in at a hefty 10 pounds 12 ounces. And, that didn’t dissuade her from any follow-up attempts at Eve-ing her way around in our family tree. My sister and brother, 10 pounds 8 ounces, and 10 pounds 2 respectively, followed not long afterward. (If I’m not precise on the sibling weights, I’m close…the point being, three over 10 pounds. I have no idea how women do it. I certainly would have been dissuaded).
This 13.5 pound baby was delivered in Leipzig, and not by C-section. Yes, folks…not by C-section. Now, imagine our Mitochondrial Eve hurling something like that into the world.
I’m imagining a pregnant woman, loaded down with 50 or 60 pounds of camping gear, rotting food, and of course, the maps, trudging across a dry, frozen mountain pass somewhere in Eurasia. She’s on her way to colonize and populate the world…she’s also following a group of men – who are carrying nothing but a few wood and stone weapons, which is important, you know. The stomach cramps, nausea, and all the other joys of impending motherhood give way to the miracle of birth on some rocky, desolate, trail. The group gets her stabilized as well as they know how, bundle up the squalling newborn, help her get her pack back on, and off they go. Remember, I’m imagining this.
Happy Women’s Day: in Tribute to Mitochondrial Eve (Photo credit: garlandcannon)
Yes, we all owe a lot to that, and every other Mitochondrial Eve we can imagine, past and present.