Friday, September 06, 2013

The Mystery of Archaic Denisovan DNA in Me

Why am I Denisovan?

I've been a bit puzzled by my Geno 2.0 archaic hominin genetic ancestry result which reported that I have 2.3% Denisovan genetic ancestry - greater than my Neanderthal genetic ancestry which weighs in at a mere 1.9%. This particularly perplexes me in light of the fact that my autosomal genetic ancestry results indicated that I am significantly and overwhelmingly of European stock (97% - 100% in most studies). Given the overwhelming European-ness of my genetic profiles, coupled with the fact that in the scientific literature archaic Denisovan genes have been found to exist (so far) only in modern populations of Aboriginal Australians and the Melanesians of Papua New Guinea, I didn't expect to have any Denisovan ancestry.

Then comes Teutonic me, with 2.3% Denisovan genetic ancestry. As a daughter of Europe (mostly Northern and Northwestern Europe even more specifically), I expected to have much more European Neanderthal in me and no Asian-Australian Denisovan. But surprise! - I have more Denisovan than Neanderthal! So, what gives with this?

Comparable with others of primarily Celtic-Germanic ancestry (matching the modern German and British reference populations), Geno 2.0 did report that I do have some genetic ancestry admixture from Southeast Asia. Papua New Guinea, home to the Pacific Islanders known as the Melanesians, is in East Asia - so this gets me closer to an answer as to why I have Denisovan DNA.

Like some of Nordic descent, I was born with white blonde hair, though it darkened to a dark blonde as I became an adult. Though I don't have blue eyes, my father does. So, it's clear that some of my ancestors had blonde hair and blue eyes stereotypical of Nordic types.

Interestingly, like me and like some others of Nordic ancestry, blonde hair is also found in high frequency among Melanesian children - those very same children with Denisovan genes. Like me.

So, while it may be that my Homo sapiens sapiens homeland may be Europe by way of Africa and the Near East, it may also be that my Denisovan ancestry homeland is in Australia - maybe that's why so many modern Brits live and love in Australia - our ancestral folksoul (Britain is one my ancestral homelands) is tied to that land as well.

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