The Loh Down On Science

Can we know how the earliest Europeans looked?

CSIC / Spanish National Research Council

Were the earliest Europeans . . . mocha-colored?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying:

Yes!  Some of them, anyway.  We know this thanks to DNA analysis from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, in Barcelona.  Researchers there sequenced the entire genome of a male hunter-gatherer who lived around 7,000 years ago.  His skeleton was found in a cave in northern Spain.

The first surprise?  He probably wasn't pasty.  He likely had very tan skin and dark hair, yet blue eyes!  He was a hunting, gathering hunk!  This means that European eyes lightened up before complexion.  It has been thought that complexion changed first.  

He also had specific immunity-related gene variants.  These supposedly came from settling down on dirty farms with livestock.  But he predated farming in Europe by a millenium.  Which blows that idea out of the water.

Not so unexpected?  He was lactose intolerant and didn’t eat many starchy foods.  So, yeah, milk and potato chips came later.  The most interesting thing?  All this information came from the DNA of a third molar.  

Now that's what I call a wisdom tooth!  Buh-dum bum.

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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