After the Romanian cave 35,000 years ago, she is called Pestera Mueri1. Now, evolutionary geneticist Matthias Jacobson and Emma Svensson of Uppsala University have succeeded in mapping her entire genome.
– We took a sample from one of her teeth stuck in her skull. We were able to extract her entire genome because it was well preserved. Matthias Jacobson says only a handful of individuals have been able to do this since this time.
Genome analysis shows that she had a predisposition to dark skin, hair and dark eyes. Her genes reveal that she did not suffer from any of the hereditary diseases we know of. They had almost as little contact with the Neanderthal speaker as they do today.
But what surprised evolutionary geneticists was that she had a much higher genetic variation than humans had at the time. The results were published in the journal this week Current Biology.
Today, people outside Africa have less genetic variation than people living in Africa. Know that modern man evolved in Africa 300,000 years ago. A small group migrated from Africa about 80,000 years ago – a group that has since spread around the world outside Africa.
It is estimated that very few individuals have immigrated, and many genetic variations have disappeared. This would have been a hindrance – and the genetic variation of immigrants is considered to be much lower than that of those who remain in Africa.
Now the woman from Pestera Muiri is challenging the concept of barrier.
– She lived about 35,000 years ago, and she has a large genetic variation, so 80,000 years ago would not be a barrier to reducing genetic variation, says Matthias Jacobson.
Instead, something else happened. The descendants of the woman in Pestera Muiri met at difficult times. It cooled considerably. 20,000 years ago it was the peak of the ice age, and the ice sheet went back a bit to present-day Germany, where it really cooled around the world. This led to a sharp decline in genetic variation in people living at the time.
The ice age is tough
– Decreased genetic variation is associated with changed living conditions during the Ice Age. According to Matthias Jacobson, there were few places in Europe for people to live in at the time, and only 1,000 to 10,000 people at a time.
With very few individuals, genetic variation decreases sharply, which increases the risk of genetic diseases and makes it reproducible in its most severe form.
Successors migrate inside
When it warms up again and the ice cover is withdrawn, a small section of the woman’s descendants from Pestera Muiris wanders into Scandinavia and we call them the first Swedes. About 10,000 years ago. The waves of migration spread across Europe and it increased the genetic variation.
A few thousand years later, a whole new group of people from the areas around present-day Turkey is coming up with a completely new way of life – the peasants. Today’s Europeans are not directly descended from the woman from Pestera Muiri, but we are cousins to the family view of human evolution.