"The results change the perception of who a Viking actually was," said project leader Professor Eske Willerslev.
- A team of international researchers spent years analyzing the DNA of 442 people, most of whom lived during the Viking age.
- It's the largest DNA analysis of Viking remains to date.
- The results show that Vikings were more genetically diverse than previously thought.
An artistic reconstruction of 'Southern European' Vikings emphasising the foreign gene flow into Viking Age Scandinavia.
Credit: Jim Lyngvild<p>The results deal a blow to our modern image of Vikings.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We didn't know genetically what they actually looked like until now," project leader Professor Eske Willerslev, director of The Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre, University of Copenhagen, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/sjcu-wld091120.php" target="_blank">statement</a>. "We found genetic differences between different Viking populations within Scandinavia which shows Viking groups in the region were far more isolated than previously believed. Our research even debunks the modern image of Vikings with blonde hair as many had brown hair and were influenced by genetic influx from the outside of Scandinavia."</p>
A mass grave of around 50 headless Vikings from a site in Dorset, UK. Some of these remains were used for DNA analysis.
Redefining the 'Viking' identity<p>What's more, some of the people who received Viking burials weren't genetically related to the Vikings, suggesting the term "Viking" might have referred more to a job description or cultural identity rather than genetic heritage.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Importantly our results show that 'Viking' identity was not limited to people with Scandinavian genetic ancestry," study co-author Søren Sindbæk, an archaeologist from Moesgaard Museum in Denmark, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/sjcu-wld091120.php" target="_blank">statement</a>. "Two Orkney skeletons who were buried with Viking swords in Viking style graves are genetically similar to present-day Irish and Scottish people and could be the earliest Pictish genomes ever studied."</p><p>Although Vikings idolized warrior culture, took slaves, and focused much of their energy on conquering Europe, they also <a href="https://www.historyonthenet.com/vikings-as-traders" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">helped expand trade throughout the continent</a>, developed <a href="http://www.sourcinginnovation.com/archaeology/Arch07.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">innovative farming and crafting techniques</a>, and were <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-46194699" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relatively egalitarian in terms of women's rights</a>. Using a genetic framework, the new study adds a deeper layer to history's understanding of the Vikings.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The results change the perception of who a Viking actually was," Willerslev said in the statement. "The history books will need to be updated."</p>
DNA molecules are highly programmable.
By folding DNA into a virus-like structure, MIT researchers have designed HIV-like particles that provoke a strong immune response from human immune cells grown in a lab dish. Such particles might eventually be used as an HIV vaccine.
Just how close are we to setting up camp on another planet? It's complicated.
- We are closer than ever to actually putting human beings on Mars, but exactly how close is very much still up for debate. Getting there is one thing, and we eventually may not have a choice, but there are a number of problems that need to be solved before our species can call the Red Planet home.
- In this video, former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, educator Bill Nye, science journalist Stephen Petranek, astronomer Michelle Thaller, and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku consider mankind's fascination with Mars and explain why the planet may be the most viable option for colonization. They also share difficult truths about what it will take for this expensive dream to become a reality.
- From finding a way to protect against radiation and adjusting to the difference in atmospheric pressure, to mining for ice and transporting food, to significantly lowering the cost of space travel, it certainly won't be easy. But that doesn't mean that it's not worth doing. As Leland Melvin says, the spirit of exploration and curiosity is in our DNA.
Our family tree is complicated, and some of the branches are still unlabeled.
- A new study of the genomes of Modern Humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans suggests the three were interbreeding quite often.
- The study also found DNA from an unidentified, archaic human ancestor which we inherited from the Denisovans.
- Homo Erectus is the most likely source of this DNA.
Some of our evolutionary relatives never really left, genetically speaking.<p>The paper titled "<a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1008895" target="_blank">Mapping gene flow between ancient hominins through demography-aware inference of the ancestral recombination graph</a><em>" </em>was published in PLOS Genetics. It's authors used a new statistical method to analyze the genomes of two Neanderthals, a Denisovan, and two modern humans.</p><p>The new method allowed the researchers to determine when segments of one individual's DNA are worked into the chromosomes of another. These occurrences are called "recombination events" and can be used to determine when specific genes entered our genome and provide evidence of where it came from. As an example of how this can be <a href="https://www.livescience.com/mystery-ancestor-mated-with-humans.html" target="_blank">used</a>, if Neanderthal DNA contained genes from another pre-human ancestor that they then passed to us, this method would identify it. </p><p>The analysis confirmed previous studies that showed that Modern Humans interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovans. However, this analysis suggests that some of this mixing took place between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago, long before what previous studies had suggested. It also indicates that more instances of interbreeding occurred than previously suspected.</p><p>Most interestingly, the researchers noticed that one percent of the DNA in the Denisovans from an even more ancient human ancestor. Fifteen percent of the genes that this ancestor passed onto the Denisovans still exist in the Modern Human <a href="https://phys.org/news/2020-08-dna-ancient-unidentified-ancestor-humans.html" target="_blank">genome</a>. </p><p>Exactly who this ancestor was remains unknown, but there are some clues. The fact that this ancestor separated from the linage that would lead to modern humans about 1,000,000 years ago is the most useful one we currently have. This led the researchers to suggest Homo Erectus as the most likely candidate. </p>
Who was Homo Erectus?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="oZzgXq4d" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="0007d6c597f8cc6c95d9d3b5fae7c1ad"> <div id="botr_oZzgXq4d_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/oZzgXq4d-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/oZzgXq4d-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/oZzgXq4d-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The bane of all school teachers focusing on human evolution and the original "missing link," <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_erectus" target="_blank">Homo Erectus</a> was the first human ancestor to leave Africa. They spread widely throughout the old world, with their remains found from Spain to Java. They resembled modern humans, though they were a tad shorter. They were the first to control fire, made tools, created artwork, and likely had rudimentary language.</p><p>It should be repeated that while Homo Erectus is the probable source of this ancient DNA, the jury is still out. Scientists would have to sequence its genome to know for sure. </p><p>Studying human evolution leads us down some very strange roads. It is increasingly clear to us that wherever there was an overlap of human species, there was interbreeding and that a considerable amount of the genetic remnants of this endure to this day. While this might get in the way of the old view of evolution as a slow climb to the humanity, the pinnacle of biological achievement, it does provide us a richer view of who we are, where we come form, and where we might be going. </p>
Is CRISPR the solution?
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic cripples the economy and kills hundreds of people each day, there is another epidemic that continues to kill tens of thousands of people each year through opioid drug overdose.