Monthly Archives: January 2014

Men and Dogs

In his blog, the mermaid’s tale, Ken Weiss wonders if the characteristic behaviors of different dog breeds are inculcated, rather than inborn: “Which raises the general question of just how built-in strain-specific temperaments and the like really are. To what, … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 100 Comments

Adaptive Neanderthal admixture

Finally, there are papers  out on the long-term consequences of Neanderthal admixture – one by Sriram Sankararaman in Nature, the other by Benjamin Vernot in Science. The general picture is that anatomically modern humans exiting Africa mixed, to a degree,  … Continue reading

Posted in Genetics, Neanderthals | 97 Comments

From the cutting room floor

“A haplotype (haploid genotype) is a particular pattern of variation along a chromosome. Imagine three successive variable sites – the first can be G or C (representing guanine or cytosine), the second can be A (adenine) or G, while the … Continue reading

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Shades of Pale

If there was an advantage to just being paler –  say because of increased vitamin D production – then any mutation that moderately reduced function of a gene in the melanin pathway would be favored, as long as the change … Continue reading

Posted in Genetics, Skin color | 138 Comments


If the common mutation of SLC24A5 confers an advantage other than increased vitamin-D production, evidence might show up in a mixed ethnic group, formed from one population with a high incidence of the interesting SLC24A5 variant and another with little … Continue reading

Posted in Genetics, Skin color | 51 Comments


*(means white skin, like you didn’t know that) A mutant version of SLC24a5 is the biggest single cause of light skin color in Western Eurasia. It’s very widespread: The usual explanation is that light skin ( in Western Eurasia), caused … Continue reading

Posted in Genetics, Skin color | 62 Comments

Intellectual Ambergris

Previously, I’ve talked about the relationship between certain flavors of nuttiness and high achievement in math and physics. There are other such associations.  Poets, and some other kinds of creative artists, are more likely than average to be manic-depressive.  Actually … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 53 Comments

Triune origins

With the latest paper, the story on European origins is becoming clearer.  Three populations account for European ancestry: the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of western Europe (dubbed WHG in the paper), early European farmers derived from somewhere in the Mideast (EEF), and … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 25 Comments

Real Continuity and Fake Continuity

When we look at ancient DNA and see some sharing with the modern populations living in the same region, we tend to think we’re seeing population continuity – people in that region today are to some extent descended from the … Continue reading

Posted in Genetics | 46 Comments

Is and Ought

I was chatting with a colleague the other day. She knows her science very well and she is no kind of moralistic posturer. Nevertheless she came up with the kind of knee jerk in the conversation with which most of … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 126 Comments