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Humanity's Genetic Diversity on the Decline

CmdrTaco posted about 7 years ago | from the meanwhile-my-beer-gut-it-on-the-incline dept.

Biotech 285

jd writes "In a study covering five different periods of history, from 300 AD to the present day, and geographically spread across much of Europe, scientists have extracted the mitochondrial DNA from a sizable number of individuals in an effort to examine changes in diversity. The results, published in the Royal Society journal is intriguing to say the least. 1700 years ago, three out of every four individuals belonged to a different haplotype. In modern Europe, the number is only one in three. The researchers blame a combination of plague, selection of dominant lineages and culturally-inflicted distortions. The researchers say more work needs to be done, but are unclear if this involves archaeology or experiments involving skewing the data in the local female population."

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Isn't it called... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20156111)

the Melting Pot?!

Thank you, leave your $$$ in my hat, I'll be exiting the stage to the left, thank you, thank you...

Is this news? (1, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 7 years ago | (#20156167)

Isn't this basically what that whole "survival of the fittest" thing does? End less suitable genetic traits and combine the surviving ones in an ever repeating cycle, ever closer to the "fittest" genetic blend?

Re:Is this news? (4, Insightful)

krgallagher (743575) | about 7 years ago | (#20156271)

"Isn't this basically what that whole "survival of the fittest" thing does?"

Their conclusions are not valid for all of humanity anyway. How does Western Europe equal humanity? It is already known [sciencedaily.com] that there is less genetic diversity in two Europeans from different countries than there is in two Africans from the same village. What a Eurocentric point of view.

Re:Is this news? (4, Funny)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | about 7 years ago | (#20156383)

I know! What a bunch of malarky. Everyone knows that North America equals humanity, not Western Europe. Duh!

Re:Is this news? (1, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 7 years ago | (#20156595)

I know! What a bunch of malarky. Everyone knows that North America equals humanity, not Western Europe. Duh


As if those Canadians and Mexicans were even human! Sheesh!

Re:Is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20156681)

"What a Eurocentric point of view."

As a proud citizen of the European Union, I can assure you that Europeans are the only population that matters. The rest are untermensch. Sieg Heil!

Re:Is this news? (2, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | about 7 years ago | (#20157153)

Why should anyone care about populations outside of his/her own? It's not natural to do so.

Re:Is this news? (4, Informative)

kahei (466208) | about 7 years ago | (#20156299)


No, it isn't. For one thing, diversity is itself a survival trait in a population -- a population that had actually all zeroed in on the one single 'most fit' genotype would be terribly vulnerable.

It's misconceptions like these that make it easier for cranky American Protestants to think of 'Evolutionism' as just another faith.

Re:Is this news? (-1, Troll)

djasbestos (1035410) | about 7 years ago | (#20156367)

Well, if there is less diversity Euromericans, there must be more cousinfuckery going on, which would explain why people seem to get stupider and stupider, despite the availability of education and technology in the West*.

*Except in rural and urban capitalist areas where nobody cares if the poor are neither educated nor high tech...it ain't their fault.

Re:Is this news? (3, Funny)

Sciros (986030) | about 7 years ago | (#20156609)

While you are indeed a prime example of what you describe, I don't think the issue is as widespread as you suggest.

Re:Is this news? (4, Interesting)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 7 years ago | (#20156549)

Nobody said "fittest" is an absolute, nor even measurable. It just means "whatever has the best chance of survival in this environment". If any variable changes (such as the environment), it's likely some other trait becomes more "fit". As such; in an environment that changes rapidly, a more diverse genetic will have bigger chances, in a more stable environment, genetic markup would have the time to zero in on a particular direction. This vulnerability you describe only exists when one of the variables changes. Diversity may be (and probably is) a better trait in the long term, but in the short term it serves little purpose. There's probably millions of times in the past where diversity in human genes has grown, we happen to live in a time and environment that is stable enough for other traits to become more important than diversity and so these other traits tend to be the ones with the biggest chance of survival.

Re:Is this news? (2, Interesting)

edittard (805475) | about 7 years ago | (#20157141)

Diversity may be (and probably is) a better trait in the long term
I'm not even sure it is a trait. Perhaps it's fair to say it's a trait of populations rather than individuals, but I don't see how in that case it can be selected for (or against) in the standard Darwinian method like skin colour or weight might be.

Re:Is this news? (1, Insightful)

beckerist (985855) | about 7 years ago | (#20157531)

I'm actually surprised by all of this. With the social programs we as a species have adopted, those individuals with crippling genetic diseases are now able to stay alive much longer and lead productive lives. With this, and as horrible as it is to say, unfortunately there is a better chance now for those individuals with disorders to reproduce. This isn't limited to disorders, but there are plenty of genetically influenced traits that thousands of years ago would have killed the carrier (ie: obesity, arthritis, diabetes) if they were being chased by some wild animal, effectively progressing towards weeding it out of the gene pool.

Though, in the same light, it's geographical distinction that most commonly affects genetic distribution and overall genetic manipulation (over time.) Given the ease of relocation and more liberal ethical philosophies in deciding our mates (compare to 50+ years or just 2 generations ago) I understand the dramatic decrease...

Re:Is this news? (0, Troll)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 7 years ago | (#20156629)

"No, it isn't. For one thing, diversity is itself a survival trait in a population -- "

Don't tell that to the "Political Correct" crowd. According to them, diversity is the panacea to all our problems.

:-)

Re:Is this news? (1, Redundant)

Bob-taro (996889) | about 7 years ago | (#20156765)

It's misconceptions like these that make it easier for cranky American Protestants to think of 'Evolutionism' as just another faith.
It's not that it's a "faith", per se. It's just that it's a theory based on the NON-existence of a creator. If you don't believe in a creator, you can I can look at the same data all day, and come to different conclusions. The non-believers, or course, claim to have the "unbiased" view, but there's really no such thing. You might say, "ID is stupid when there's this perfectly good scientific explanation". Well, if you regard invoking a creator as "stupid", then you've shown that you're biased against that idea, just as I am biased against the idea that the universe "just happened" without a purposeful, creative agent behind it. And yes, I realize there are a lot of people who believe both -- the "God created the mechanism of evolution" view. That's fine, but for me I think that view assumes a solider scientific foundation for evolution than actually exists.

Re:Is this news? (4, Insightful)

TheEmptySet (1060334) | about 7 years ago | (#20156937)

"It's just that it's a theory based on the NON-existence of a creator."

Not at all. Me thinks you do not understand the concept of scientific reasoning as well as one might hope. It is a theory 'not based on the existence of a creator', which is a far cry from 'a theory based on the NON-existence of a creator'. Not assuming the existence of a 'creator' (whatever one may choose to mean with that) one does ones best to understand and explain observed phenomenon in a rational manner. While one cannot yet prove that the flying spaghetti monster does or does not exist through repeatable experimentation (and people should feel free to contribute their research in this area to the scientific community as a whole), one can make a very good description of the functioning of the world around us without having to tackle the issue of the influence of his omnipotent noodly appendages.

Re:Is this news? (1)

sedman (210394) | about 7 years ago | (#20157245)

While you have described what science is supposed to be fairly well, me thinks you have not been paying much attention to what is going on in the public school system. The parents contention that it is based on the non existence of a creator is much closer to what is currently being taught.

Re:Is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20157501)

o_0 Where are you going to school?
Surely you realize that not mentioning a creator is different from saying that no creator exists...

Re:Is this news? (2, Interesting)

TheEmptySet (1060334) | about 7 years ago | (#20157513)

I assume you are referring to the US public schooling system. In which case you are quite right and it worries me to see that in the US children are increasingly taught that scientific reasoning must depend on such assumptions. This turns the whole debate away from what it should be. This is why, when I have visited the US I have never dared wear my "Just Say No To Evolution" T-shirt for fear that people might think it anything other than a cynical joke about this debate. Over here in Britain we are only just beginning to feel the effects of the Christian Nonsense Lobby in our state schools and it has yet to provoke the sort of outrage that leads people to publicly make idiotic arguments against it for lack of understanding of the perfectly good ones.

Re:Is this news? (1)

bob.appleyard (1030756) | about 7 years ago | (#20157583)

Please tell me you're not one of those people attempting to destroy the school science curricula in the US.

Re:Is this news? (4, Interesting)

geoffspear (692508) | about 7 years ago | (#20157599)

I went to a US public school where our principal told the senior class that we were damn well going to go to a prayer session before graduation or we wouldn't get our diplomas, despite a Supreme Court ruling the same year that held that even holding such a ceremony was definitely illegal. Yeah, our entire school system is run by a bunch of atheist communists who hate religion. Right.

This oppression is also why it's absolutely impossible to get elected President unless you're an avowed Atheist.

Re:Is this news? (3, Insightful)

Cairnarvon (901868) | about 7 years ago | (#20157625)

When you have a theory that explains the natural world as perfectly as evolution does, invoking a creator just because not having one makes you uncomfortable is a terrible unparsimonious thing to do. If there's a bias here, it's that science tends to favor the simplest explanation that can explain the observed facts.
(And that's without even going into the massive amount of questions invoking a creator invokes in the first place.)

Keep in mind, though, that evolution is not a theory about the origin of the universe, just about life. If you really want a gap for your god to hide in, have him hide "before the Big Bang".

Re:Is this news? (1)

linguizic (806996) | about 7 years ago | (#20156877)

Don't be so hard on the guy, after all group selectionist models like what you are espousing are currently on the fringes of sociobiological theory. Though you refrained from making a 'for the good of the species' argument, you still engaged in a form of it. Richard Dawkins has much to say about these types of arguments as does John Alcock who wrote a fantastic book called the triumph of sociobiology. I highly recommend it:

http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Life Sciences/Ecology/AnimalBehavior/?view=usa&ci=97801 95143836 [oup.com]

Science is a faith... (-1, Offtopic)

tjstork (137384) | about 7 years ago | (#20157001)

The underpinning of science is the faith that the pursuit of knowledge can better the human condition, that, at some level, there is an objective truth. It follows that you must also believe that mankind is honest enough to have a class of people whose job is to determine what truth is.

All of those points are debatable, depending on what one's values are.

History is told at each point in time by people who complain the most. So, we say that middle ages life sucks from our perspective, as, we're sold on the idea that living longer and disease free is the ultimate way to live, and the people that sold us on that idea were those peasants that weren't happy about being peasants. One has to imagine that, for much of history, there were plenty of peasants that were pretty happy, otherwise, people would not have been peasants.

I am endlessly shocked by those on the left wing that cannot imagine this simple point. To them, of all of all people, the idea of having a scientific community more or less running things is non-negotiable. In their defense of that concept, liberals have to point become the real religious fanatics of our time. One look at the nominating process for a Democratic president can tell you that the Inquisition is alive and well on the left wing.

Conservatives, on the other hand, can take science as another faith, simply because they can affix a dollar value on the value of knowledge versus their own enjoyment of a particular cultural tradition. So, in a sense, today's conservatives, by seeing science as another choice, have, at some level, a much wider and healthier view of the human condition than do their fanatical liberal counterparts. Unfortunately, conservatives bring that package with a lot of cultural package when it comes to asserting the rights of others. So, we are afflicted with liberals who lack the imagination to see a whole world view, and conservatives that see that world view, but really, only for themselves.

Re:Science is a faith... (1)

hesiod (111176) | about 7 years ago | (#20157261)

> a class of people whose job is to determine what truth is

That is complete nonsense. It is their job to discover what truth is, not to determine it.

Re:Is this news? (1)

bonglord (878656) | about 7 years ago | (#20157315)

I could be wrong, but I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.

Re:Is this news? (1)

linguizic (806996) | about 7 years ago | (#20156725)

Actually, what this points out is that there are fewer women contributing to the gene pool since the mtDNA is copied over completely from the mother. One possible explanation for this could be the rise of modern warfare where women are military targets. Another explanation could be that this reflects the rising status of women in these societies. It's well known that there is an inverse correlation between a woman's social status and the number of children she has.

Re:Is this news? (1)

KoldKompress (1034414) | about 7 years ago | (#20156999)

Thanks for this informative post, it will be my new chat-up line in future.

Re:Is this news? (2, Interesting)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | about 7 years ago | (#20156785)

The catch, of course, is that "fittest" depends on the environment that the organism lives in. And "less suitable genetic traits" are just the ones that happen to result in the individual's untimely death (i.e., before it reproduces). My myopia is obviously a less suitable genetic trait that could get me killed if I get into a situation where I need to see a danger at a distance. But none of my nearly-blind ancestors managed to get themselves killed before I came along, and I have managed to reproduce, and so this bad trait has been propagated to another generation. There seem to be certain diseases that are like that as well. Some inherited traits just happen to help a genetic line survive, and some of them just happen to not to have caused it to be extinguished.

I remember an article a few years ago that essentially said that the current generation of people is composed of a very small sample of the people who lived in the Middle Ages (to pick an epoch). Most of the family lines of that earlier epoch have been extinguished, for whatever reason. So in essence, we are whittling down to some few genetic lines that will have been lucky enough to make it that far. Whatever it is, it won't be perfect.

I think this is news because it is confirmation of an old idea [talkorigins.org] that is still hotly debated.

Re:Is this news? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 7 years ago | (#20157497)

Isn't this basically what that whole "survival of the fittest" thing does? End less suitable genetic traits and combine the surviving ones in an ever repeating cycle, ever closer to the "fittest" genetic blend?

Survival of the fittest is how nature does selection.

Societies introduce artificial changes to what defines "fittest", so this isn't necessarily a purely 'normal' evolutionary change.

For instance, in North America, those doing the most procreation in many cases might be the least fit. They're not the ones who have been the most successful or fit to survive, they're the people from lower incomes, lower educations, lower employment success, etc. Certainly, the amount of high-school dropouts with very low income opportunities I see pushing carriages doesn't support the idea that the most 'fit' are producing kids.

In societies which had hereditary royalties, it wasn't uncommon for some undesirable traits to creep in due to some intermarriage which took place for political reasons. (I believe hemophelia in European royals for instance.)

The rules change entirely when it's society deciding who is most fit and who is least (or, that 'fit' isn't applicable and everyone gets a go at the whole breeding thing), and we simply don't know enough about it to know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. From a purely evolutionary position, it's just happening. But, if you go a few generations breeding out some of the desirable traits, you could actually find it's detrimental in the long run.

Think of it like what's happening with 'purebred' dog breeds. They've actually ended up breeding in a lot of undesirable traits (hip displasia, shortened lifespans, dumb-as-a-post, etc). Evolution works in both directions, and when we over-ride how you select the 'good ones', we don't necessarily create the fittest examples, we just propagate certain traits which may or may not be desirable.

Just because it's a gradual changing of a species over time, doesn't necessarily make it an improvement. It makes it a change. The ones which make themselves less fit over time might just become extinct; it wouldn't be the first time. Who's to say we're not in the middle of making ourselves less fit as a species?

Cheers

I Can Vouch For That! (4, Funny)

morari (1080535) | about 7 years ago | (#20156171)

Come on down to Southern Ohio and you'll see just what I mean. The Shadow Over Portsmouth!

Re:I Can Vouch For That! (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | about 7 years ago | (#20156439)

Heh. +1 for the Lovecraft reference if I had mod points.

I think it just boils down to the increased mobility of populations allowing groups to interbreed more freely...200 years ago, you could have lots of little enclaves of genetic diversity within a few dozen miles of each other that would seldom if ever gain any genes from each other.

These days there is no guarantee that genes won't be shared regularly across a thousand miles or more. My wife and I were born 400 miles apart. My parents were born in the same town, but their parents were born 500 and 2000 miles apart, respectively.

skewing data (5, Funny)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | about 7 years ago | (#20156173)

The researchers say more work needs to be done, but are unclear if this involves archaeology or experiments involving skewing the data in the local female population.

In the name of science, I volunteer for any experiments involving "skewing" "data" into the local female population.

Re:skewing data (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 years ago | (#20156727)

I knew someone would.

You people are so predictable. :)

Re:skewing data (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20157007)

This has been happening ever since mankind outlawed rape.

Re:skewing data (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | about 7 years ago | (#20157047)

Unfortunately, your contribution will do nothing to the diversity of mitochondrial DNA since it is only passed by the mother. BTW, can't that simply explain why that diversity is reducing (whomen either transmit their mitochondrial DNA, ...or not)?

"skewing the data in the local female population." (1)

Flying pig (925874) | about 7 years ago | (#20156201)

I've never heard it called that before. Either something is missing in translation, or we should be told a bit more about what the Royal Society is like nowadays. After all, it was founded by Charles II, and he was pretty good at something that sounded a bit like skewing the local female population.

Re:"skewing the data in the local female populatio (2, Interesting)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 7 years ago | (#20156251)

Yeah, I think you mean "skewering" the local female population heh...

Seriously, genetic diversity cannot be helped by a society that favors monogamous, life-long relationships between couples. The most genetic diversity is achieved when women have children by as many different men as possible throughout their lifetimes.

Re:"skewing the data in the local female populatio (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 7 years ago | (#20156459)

The most genetic diversity is achieved when women have children by as many different men as possible throughout their lifetimes.


In other words, you're suggesting that women become more like the women one sees walking about in the inner cities or appear on Maury Povich doing the paternity tests.

Re:"skewing the data in the local female populatio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20156553)

The most genetic diversity is achieved when women have children by as many different men as possible throughout their lifetimes.

You mean like a crack whore?

Re:"skewing the data in the local female populatio (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 7 years ago | (#20156323)

Mitochondria is carried by women (via the fact that they have the cell, where is the sperm just introduces DNA). So, by looking at just mitochondria, it is possible that the diversity was lost there, but not in the human DNA (the mitochondria is nothing more than a degraded bacteria; it even has bacterial DNA). IOW, they are saying that they may be measuring the wrong item.

Re:"skewing the data in the local female populatio (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 7 years ago | (#20157111)

Mitochondria are a hell of a lot more than "degraded bacteria;" try taking the mitochondria out of your cells and see how long you last. ;)

Also, human mitichondrial DNA is just as much "human DNA" as is nuclear DNA. Sure, it was bacterial originally, but the point at which it became a vital part of our cells was very early in the evolution of eukaryotes, a looong time before there was any such thing as human being ... or a mammal ... or, for that matter, anything more complex than a jellyfish. Our mitochondria have evolved along with the rest of us for the last two-billion-plus years. I understand the distinction you're trying to make -- basically, this study only measures matrilineal diversity, rather than diversity as a whole -- but it could probably be phrased better.

Don't worry (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#20156207)

Easyjet is restoring the diversity.

 

Re:Don't worry (2, Interesting)

DarenN (411219) | about 7 years ago | (#20156307)

On a serious note I've heard it argued that the ease of travel is slowing the rate of human evolution (or if you don't believe in it, human natural selection) as the chances of a even an improving mutation/trait being successful over time is much lessened in a greater pool of individuals.

Not entirely relevant to the article, though.

Re:Don't worry (3, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | about 7 years ago | (#20156739)

That's hard to say. The ease of travel has been leading to a decrease in diversity within a species which is significantly less diverse than most other species already.

But as was pointed out in an article I read last year, what diversity looks like may very well be in transition. I don't personally quite buy the authors suggestion, but the trend is away from distinctive racial groups and more towards groupings based upon intellect and looks.

Which to some extent makes sense. The premium that most groups place on mating within the same group has been decreasing, at least around here, and people will always choose somebody that they find enjoyable to be around to those that are not. Frequently looks, intellect, sense of humor and health are considered selection criteria. So the idea that the groupings would be based upon that wouldn't be too outlandish.

Re:Don't worry (1)

thanatos_x (1086171) | about 7 years ago | (#20157149)

Human evolution died out a long time ago... The first death blow was us being social creatures, which allowed those somewhat less able to live, though perhaps not in great comfort. There definitely was still some of it in existence - Europeans were far more resistant to diseases than most other cultures, due to living in a relatively crowded cesspit. Lack of tools and abilities also showed our diversity - A professor told me black slaves lived longer than white slaves (indentured servants) in the south/Caribbean and reversed in New England (due to resistance to diseases in the respective climates. Incidentally this is part of the reason slavery was less common in the north (it also had to do with relative uses for labor and optimum economic size of producers.))

Thanks to the advent of medicine and technology this is no longer the case. Pretty much all intrinsic advantages against diseases are equalized as hospital care will tend to beat a good immune system any day. People with poor eyesight suffer no disadvantage over those with, those with potentially crippling childhood disabilities can be treated in some cases... the list goes on, and is getting smaller every day. We've even gotten to the point of attempting to remove social darwinism from the system, and to some extent we have. You won't starve in America or Europe if you're stupid. You may not be a great success in other measures, but you'll do fine eating, and more than fine reproducing.

I'd go on about reverse evolution, but I've probably pissed off enough people already. Regardless it shouldn't be too big an issue. If science makes the advances in the next 50 years that it made in the last 50 years, we'll be fine.

Re:Don't worry (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | about 7 years ago | (#20156851)

On a serious note I've heard it argued that the ease of travel is slowing the rate of human evolution (or if you don't believe in it, human natural selection) as the chances of a even an improving mutation/trait being successful over time is much lessened in a greater pool of individuals.
What about the increased chances of complementary mutations pairing up?

Anyone who says that fusing long-segregated DNA isn't a good idea needs to take a good long look at the results [buddytv.com] .

Some points (5, Informative)

wandm (969392) | about 7 years ago | (#20156241)

Firstly, the article has nothing about "human genetic diversity". It's about ancient UK population having larger haplotype diversity than the many modern European populations.

There could be a few reasons to this. Anglo-Saxons came to England around 550AD. Also Romans had settled the island. Later also Vikings came. These plus the local population already implies quite a lot of diversity.

Since then some lineages have been more successful, that's it. Actually, this could be considered supporting evidence for D. Gregory Clark's hypothesis that upper classes have been replacing the lower ones during middle ages in England, as reported by Slashdot yesterday, see http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/08/0 7/2221256 [slashdot.org]

Re:Some points (-1, Flamebait)

Silver Sloth (770927) | about 7 years ago | (#20156305)

Plus lots of frogs (who were, in fact, Danes) in 1066, and, thereafter Britain has been a frequent recipient of refugees.

Unlikely (1)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | about 7 years ago | (#20156487)

Remember this is only a study of mitochondrial DNA, not the DNA for the nucleus. I think it's more likely that geographic barriers have lowered, causing a reduction in diversity over time. It may also be that certain mitochondrial variations were better adapted for a thousand years ago, while they don't hold up so well in the modern world. It could be that the Black Death, for example, ended up destroying populations with certain variations or simply that the rare variations vanished.

Re:Some points (2, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about 7 years ago | (#20157197)

I thought of the same article. We need an explanation for why genetic diversity decreased so much in Europe and not in Africa (for example). And the mechanism of the wealthy families replacing the poor is a very plausible suggestion, since it has been independently shown to occur in Europe and not elsewhere. Of course the plague had something to do with it too, but that's not enough to explain the whole effect. It's important that the same population pressure applied for more than 30 generations, and that's long enough for some pretty impressive consequences to emerge.

The historic sample is kinda small (4, Informative)

bomanbot (980297) | about 7 years ago | (#20156263)

They used a historic sample of only 48 ancient Britons and those were even spread out to a timeframe from about 700 years (contrary to the summary, the ancient samples lived between AD 300 and 1000 which is a relatively big timeframe).

I would think that their analysis could still be statistically relevant, but still they say themselves that more work is needed, so I think more historic sample data would be quite useful.

It's already been explained. (2, Informative)

Reeses (5069) | about 7 years ago | (#20156279)

It's sad that scientists don't read each other's stuff. Then again, both of these articles came out at the same time, so it would have been virtually impossible.

But the parent article refers to a phenomenon mentioned in a slashdot article about the Industrial Revolution less than a day ago. http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/08/0 7/2221256 [slashdot.org]

Now the key is to see if the two groups catch on.

Outliers (3, Funny)

NetDanzr (619387) | about 7 years ago | (#20156281)

If they eliminated the outliers, such as West Virginia, the average human diversity would go back to what it was in 300AD.

lol (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 7 years ago | (#20156291)

...and in 1000 years, we will all have an orange complexion, speak in all languages a once. We will also be referred to as "goobacks"!

Re:lol (1)

qualidafial (967876) | about 7 years ago | (#20156881)

...chicken sandwich?

British science geeks have it all figured out (5, Funny)

NJVil (154697) | about 7 years ago | (#20156293)

So, as I understand it, this was written by an unattractive British science geek as a pickup line to use in bars full of attractive women.

"Hi. We analysed the historical genetic diversity of human populations in Europe at the mtDNA control region for 48 ancient Britons who lived between ca AD 300 and 1000, and compared these with 6320 modern mtDNA genotypes from England and across Europe and the Middle East. We found that the historical sample shows greater genetic diversity than for modern England and other modern populations, indicating the loss of diversity over the last millennium. The pattern of haplotypic diversity was clearly European in the ancient sample, representing each of the modern haplogroups. There was also increased representation of one of the ancient haplotypes in modern populations. We consider these results in the context of possible selection or stochastic processes. So, you understand... you... must have... sex.... with me."

"Are you trying to tell me that the genetic diversity of Britain is at stake if I don't hop into the sack with you?"

"Umm... yes."

"Yes, then. For Britannia and the queen!"

Re:British science geeks have it all figured out (2, Funny)

kripkenstein (913150) | about 7 years ago | (#20156747)

Shouldn't that be

"Are you trying to tell me that the genetic diversity of Britain is at stake if I don't hop into the sack with you?"

"Umm... yes."

"Well, I'll just lie back and think of England [wikipedia.org] , then."
? ;)

Eugenics paper presented as science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20156351)

From TFAbstract: "We consider these results in the context of possible selection or stochastic processes."

Stochastic, from the Greek "stochos" or "aim", "guess", means of, relating to, or characterized by conjecture and randomness.

All the scientific research aside... (2, Funny)

goldspider (445116) | about 7 years ago | (#20156371)

...I blame West Virginia.

Undefined Genetic Groups bad for overall health (0, Flamebait)

JAB Creations (999510) | about 7 years ago | (#20156397)

With different and distinct cultural groups it gives humanity more variations on how to resist diseases and other health afflictions with varying results. One race/culture may resist one disease yet be weak to another.

The ability to travel is the biggest natural evolutionary threat of "oneness". The second biggest threat are the people who through the media continue to suggest this mixing is natural when it is not. You can see plenty of suggestive propaganda if you actually look for it such as every commercial has a black person just for the sake of "diversity" or mixed couples in women's magazines being promoted as "progressive". The people who sell this sort of propaganda of course don't value different cultures, it's "politically correct" and if we all loose our cultural distinctions we will be much weaker not only genetically (and I say that about all races) but also as groups of people in general in the future. The true racists are the ones who would prefer there to be theirs and then one giant undefined blob. From my understanding those racists are defined as cultural Marxists.

Parent's borderline racist argument is also silly (5, Insightful)

TheEmptySet (1060334) | about 7 years ago | (#20156693)

The parent makes several glaring mistakes in his reasoning.

Most importantly, it is the correct combination of genes that makes a successful organism as well as individual genes. 'Mixing' of groups of people is hugely advantageous for this reason.

Secondly, genes do not become lost when they combine with genes from another person to make a child. There is just a new combination of genes which can contribute to the whole genetic diversity of mankind. For example, we could take the idea that races should not interbreed a little further and say that people should not breed outside of their immediate family. The problem with this would be that genetic diversity could hardly ever increase, and by attrition mankind would be doomed. By separating races one creates several smaller separate gene-pools each of which is smaller than the original whole and hence more vulnerable.

Thirdly, by separating the societies it would become genetically/evolutionarily advantageous for one race to think of or treat the others as subhumans. By this argument I claim that you have implicitly invoked Godwin's law.

Also, I wish you luck procreating with your sister...

Re:Parent's borderline racist argument is also sil (1)

dsanfte (443781) | about 7 years ago | (#20157471)

genes do not become lost when they combine with genes from another person to make a child.


That's not completely true. For a simple example, if one parent is homozygous dominant for a gene (A/A) and another is heterozygous (A/a) then half of their children on average will have "lost" the recessive allele. If by chance all the children they have happen to be A/A, then that recessive a trait is lost forever.

mod parent (-500 racism) (1)

PhreakOfTime (588141) | about 7 years ago | (#20156933)

informative? Ill go out on a limb and ask you if your white... just a guess since your surname has a roman numeral after it...

Maybe there are 'black' people in commercials because they actually are a TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC of the business? Or is it your belief that business doesnt serve black people?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, racism is a belief or ideology that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another race or races.

Your desire to not want to be a racist and trying to 'redefine' a WORD, is just this side of pure arrogance. Whether you attach a negative or positive emotion to the word 'racism' is something you need to face head on. Trying to redefine a word to satisfy your self-serving ego is plain silly. Your 'understanding' is nothing but wordplay to make sure you always see yourself in a glowing halo of supremacy, instead of the BIGOT that you are!

Re:Undefined Genetic Groups bad for overall health (1)

Choad Namath (907723) | about 7 years ago | (#20157037)

With different and distinct cultural groups it gives humanity more variations on how to resist diseases and other health afflictions with varying results. One race/culture may resist one disease yet be weak to another.
This is exactly why intermarriage between groups with different genetic makeups is good. Only marrying within your own ethnic group only allows the susceptibility to certain diseases (like Sickle-cell disease [wikipedia.org] , which is caused by a recessive gene) to be passed on generation to generation. This hurts you, not helps you. This is totally ignoring the fact that there's generally more genetic diversity within a single race/ethnic group than there is between different ones. Race as we know it today is just as much cultural as it is genetic.

Re:Undefined Genetic Groups bad for overall health (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 7 years ago | (#20157259)

However, when a black person and a white person have a child together, the child usually ends up not so black. Continue this for many generations, and eventually you'll end up with no more black people.

Re:Undefined Genetic Groups bad for overall health (1)

TheEmptySet (1060334) | about 7 years ago | (#20157631)

Aside from the obvious remark about random recombination of genes (one cause of things 'skipping' one or more generations), you are correct. However, chances are the genes that caused people to be 'black' or 'white' would still be there and should it ever be advantageous (to survival or reproduction) to be one colour or other, that is the colour more people would become in the space of a few generations. Nothing is lost, unlike in the case of cultures and languages dying out.

Re:Undefined Genetic Groups bad for overall health (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20157199)

So... the hot black chick at the bar said: "No, not even in the human genetic diversity depended upon it."?

Re:Undefined Genetic Groups bad for overall health (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | about 7 years ago | (#20157383)

You might be right if there were actually a biological thing called "race." There isn't. There are just a handful of differing general genetic traits, but we can all interbreed and produce offspring with different people groups.

Race is merely an invention to differentiate social strata - to prop people up and to keep people down.

By the way, I'm a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, so no flames about me being a lefty, please.

Diversity of genes (1, Funny)

Philotechnia (1131943) | about 7 years ago | (#20156471)

My girlfriend has a very diverse set of genes. She has genes for going out, genes for lounging around the house. She often asks me if her genes make her look fat. Well, I certainly know she has some "fat" genes, but I always lie and tell her that her genes make her look fantastic! Of course, supporting this habit can be expensive. That's why every once in a while, I let her wear my genes, in a pinch. My genes are generally suited for function over form, but she enjoys them nonetheless! Sometimes, after experiencing the comfort of my genes, she swears she never going to look for new genes ever again! But I know better - her gene shopping impulses are FAR too strong...

Increase (2, Insightful)

ardor (673957) | about 7 years ago | (#20156493)

And how could the diversity *in*crease? Multiple mutations in a short timeframe?

Re:Increase (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 7 years ago | (#20156845)

Since they're looking at a specific geographic location, they could ship diversity in from Asia.

Understatement (2, Interesting)

kahei (466208) | about 7 years ago | (#20156519)


I don't really know anything about European mitochondrial DNA and I'm not entirely sure England (which was swept by various waves of invaders, not all of whom actually stayed, and then remained unchanged for a very long time) is a good example anyway. But I can say that over the last 100 years human genetic diversity (like linguistic diversity and cultural diversity) has plummeted, with truly distinct populations like the Andamanese (google them) and less-distinct but highly diverse populations like those of southern Siberia, Taiwan, and the Caucasus disappearing almost without comment.

Unfortunately, not only is it unfeasibly difficult to prevent such loss, it is also politically well-nigh impossible even to document it, as doing so involves admitting that a given population *is* distinct which is generally unacceptable to Russia and China in one way, and to politically-correct Western academics in another way. From peppercorn hair to multi-base counting systems, the vast majority of human biology, language and tradition has been lost, and a few selected strains and languages grow uncontrollably like some kind of bizarre algal bloom. Made of people.

This is not at all a recent phenomenon but in the last century it has massively speeded up. The catastrophic loss of ecological diversity may be just around the corner but the human equivalent has already happened and with a tiny fraction of the fanfare.

Re:Understatement (3, Interesting)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | about 7 years ago | (#20156729)

The catastrophic loss of ecological diversity may be just around the corner but the human equivalent has already happened and with a tiny fraction of the fanfare.


There have been many catastrophic losses of biodiversity on the planet and there will certainly be more before the Earth becomes barren.

I don't agree that the loss of societal habits, misconceptions and bugbears ("human culture") can be equated. These things may be dear to people but they are mostly rubbish.

Re:Understatement (1)

ianare (1132971) | about 7 years ago | (#20157577)

Yes it's all too true that human diversity is in decline, but this has been going on since the very beginnings of our species. Consider that before H. sapiens took over the world, there were several distinct species [wikipedia.org] of people. Once we arrive, they all "mysteriously" disappear. Then with our species, throughout history, we see the general trend of more powerful cultures absorbing and replacing weaker ones. Consider the different European cultures and the Roman empire, or the Amerindians and the European settlers/conquerors.
This is due mainly to technology - as we are able to travel and communicate ever faster over ever longer distances, it becomes possible to have a single culture over an ever larger area. And with no barriers to stop migrations, genetic diversity will drop at the same time.
I think the near future will have even less diversity, and that the rate at which other cultures and ethnic groups disappear will only increase. Eventually there will be a global government, perhaps even a global "race". However, once we can reach the stars, we will see an increase in diversity, as human settlers on other planets will necessarily evolve differently due to the very different environmental conditions. We may even see H. terrianis, H. marsianis, H. Europianis, etc ...

Hmm (2, Insightful)

JMZero (449047) | about 7 years ago | (#20156531)

three out of every four individuals belonged to a different haplotype


I remember this game from Sesame Street. They showed 4 things - 3 were different and one was the same. Same as... uh..

Re:Hmm (2, Funny)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | about 7 years ago | (#20156723)

I remember this game from Sesame Street. They showed 4 things - 3 were different and one was the same. Same as... uh..

I have young kids, so I watch that show like 3 times a day. I am a Jedi freaking *master* at 'One of these things is not like the other'. You cannot defeat me.

Re:Hmm (1)

JMZero (449047) | about 7 years ago | (#20156863)

A while back my wife was playing a game like this online with our niece. On the screen were a flower, some corn plants, a tree, and a rabbit.

My wife clicked the corn, because the other 3 things were pretty.

Re:Hmm (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 7 years ago | (#20157505)

Are you smarter than a 5th grader?

This is a good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20156541)

It's the ugly genotypes that are dying off because the good looking people won't have sex with them.

This is a good thing.

Re:This is a good thing (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 7 years ago | (#20157545)

Have you been to England recently!?

No Edit Function For the Lose (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20156585)

from the meanwhile-my-beer-gut-it-on-the-incline dept.
I bet Taco wishes he would have implemented an Edit function now. Use Preview next time, sucker!

I have to agree: this is not a cause of concern (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 7 years ago | (#20156639)

It is just the result of time and evolution.

Give us another couple of years of having russians spread plutonium throughout the world and we will start having a lot MORE genetic diversity.

I for one will welcome our two headed overlords.

In other words... (1)

ceeam (39911) | about 7 years ago | (#20156703)

... we are all slowly but definitely becoming inbreeds. And it shows.

Re:In other words... (2, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | about 7 years ago | (#20157097)

You tell 'em, Uncle Daddy!

loss of information or merely a preference? (1)

kbaud (1001076) | about 7 years ago | (#20156733)

Does this indicate a loss of information or merely a preference for a particular part of the set? If information is being lost, wouldn't that indicate that mutation has occured (a processed also observed with viruses)?

Anno Domini (2, Informative)

TheNicestGuy (1035854) | about 7 years ago | (#20156883)

All right, if Slashdotters are going to continually jump all over misuse of "begs the question", then there's a pet peeve I'd like to add to that fervor. "300 AD", as it appears in the summary, is also incorrect usage. "AD" stands for anno domini, which is Latin for "in the year of the Lord". The phrase in Latin usage and traditional English usage comes properly before the number, not after. (Say it in full: "300 in the year of the Lord" sounds like an explanation of when something's tricentennial occurred. "In the year of the Lord 300" makes more sense as an absolute time reference.)

The convention of putting "AD" after the number is nothing but sloppy analogizing to "BC", which (being the English phrase "before Christ") does make more sense that way.

Note that the Royal Society writers did get it right. It's the Slashdot summary that's wrong.

Re:Anno Domini (1)

CyberLord Seven (525173) | about 7 years ago | (#20157003)

YEAH! I'm not the only one.

The really weird thing about this is that at the turn of the century people were getting it right! WTF happened? Is 9/11 to blame for that too? Did people get stoopid after 9/11?

Re:Anno Domini (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 7 years ago | (#20157499)

Civilization happened... I know it means anno domini and a rough translation, but I always assumed you could use it like 300 AD = "300th year of our Lord". I just verified from some screenshots that Civ4 still uses the post-notation, and I know I learned it from the original Civilization game.

Re:Anno Domini (3, Funny)

FiloEleven (602040) | about 7 years ago | (#20157605)

IN A.D. 2101, WAR WAS BEGINNING

(lameness filter encountered. I suppose the mods will decide if it's accurate or not. Personally, I think this parenthetical bit ruins the joke. Lame.)

Re:Anno Domini (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 7 years ago | (#20157647)

Note that the Royal Society writers did get it right. It's the Slashdot summary that's wrong.
I'm shocked, shocked to find that Slashdot might not be as accurate as the Royal Society. What is the world coming to?

Specialization (1)

athloi (1075845) | about 7 years ago | (#20156997)

TFA brings up an important issue, but an obvious one. Over time, similar ethnic groups mixed in a nation (the UK) become closer to one. If a species appears on one continent, the farther it goes from that continent, the more it loses genetic diversity as it gets specialized for the new, foreign environment. All the other whinging is FUD by those who fear science just as much as the Christian fundamentalists do.

Go get yourself DNA tested already, so you know what diseases you're going to inherit and whether or not you really had that Cherokee ancestor. I'm too cynical today to say anything other than that general scientific education has become too scarce and too politicized. Let's just look at the data and make reasonable conclusions, and leave FUD to large corporations and finger-wagging moms.

(spoiler) Evolution aims to recreate me (1)

barwasp (1116567) | about 7 years ago | (#20157025)

Perfect beings no longer evolve

Solution? (1)

wasimmer (515964) | about 7 years ago | (#20157133)

Would promiscuity help combat this?
Honestly babe, I'm just trying to add diversity to the gene-pool!

Royals.... (2, Interesting)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | about 7 years ago | (#20157433)

Has anyone ever done a study on what is probably the most inbred population on the planet - the European royals?

I wouldn't mind... (1)

bchernicoff (788760) | about 7 years ago | (#20157441)

...skewing a few of the local female population. You know, for scientific reasons...

Endogamous marriages would preserve diversity (2, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 7 years ago | (#20157535)

You know, if preserving genetic diversity and variation is really important, there is nothing like endogamous marriages. Marriages between parallel cousins. Marriage between the offspring of two brothers (or two sisters) would be called parallel cousin endogamous marriages. The cross cousin marriages (between offspring of a brother and his sister) is sometimes called endo but some dispute it and say it is exo. But is the genetic diversity brought about by such marriages worth it?

that's simple (1)

yoprst (944706) | about 7 years ago | (#20157655)

Genocide DOES Pay (c)War Nerd
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