Ancient Girl’s Genes Link Earliest Americans, Modern Native Americans
The ancient remains of a teenage girl found in an underwater Mexican cave establish a definitive link between the earliest Americans and modern Native Americans, according to a new study released today in the journal Science.
The study was conducted by an international team of researchers from 13 institutions, including Deborah Bolnick, assistant professor of anthropology at The Univ. of Texas at Austin, who analyzed DNA from the remains simultaneously with independent researchers at Washington State Univ. and the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
New findings suggest the oxytocin receptor, a gene known to influence mother-infant bonding and pair bonding in monogamous species, also plays a special role in the ability to remember faces. This research has important implications for disorders in which social information processing is disrupted, including autism spectrum disorder. In addition, the finding may lead to new strategies for improving social cognition in several psychiatric disorders.
A team of researchers from Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, the University College London in the United Kingdom and University of Tampere in Finland made the discovery.
The research is in PNAS. (full access paywall)
Research: “Common polymorphism in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is associated with human social recognition skills” by David H. Skuse, Adriana Lori, Joseph F. Cubells, Irene Lee, Karen N. Conneely, Kaija Puura, Terho Lehtimäki, Elisabeth B. Binder, and Larry J. Young in PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1302985111
Image: Researchers discover the ‘bonding gene’, oxytocin, also plays an important role in our ability to remember faces. The research could have vital implications for social information processing disorders such as autism. This illustrative image is a computer generated 3D representation of a female face. Credit Geierunited.
Birth of New Species Requires Very Few Genetic Changes
Only a few genetic changes are needed to spur the evolution of new species — even if the original populations are still in contact and exchanging genes. Once started, however, evolutionary divergence evolves rapidly, ultimately leading to fully genetically isolated species, report scientists from the Univ. of Chicago in Cell Reports.
“Speciation is one of the most fundamental evolutionary processes, but there are still aspects that we do not fully understand, such as how the genome changes as one species splits into two,” says Marcus Kronforst, Neubauer Family assistant professor of ecology and evolution, and lead author of the study.