|La Braña 1 without makeup
(Check for the updates below, please).
The late Epipaleolithic forager from NW Iberia (previously discussed here) had the patrilineal haplogroup C6, found so far only very rarely among modern Europeans (Scozzari 2012). This, I must say, I know by the moment only from secondary sources (Eurogenes, Dienekes and a personal communication) because I have not been able yet to put my hands on the relevant paper and this key detail is not mentioned in the abstract.
Iñigo Olalde et al., Derived immune and ancestral pigmentation alleles in a 7,000-year-old Mesolithic European. Nature 2014. Pay per view → LINK [doi:10.1038/nature12960]
→ freely available supplementary materials.
Ancient genomic sequences have started to reveal the origin and the demographic impact of farmers from the Neolithic period spreading into Europe1, 2, 3. The adoption of farming, stock breeding and sedentary societies during the Neolithic may have resulted in adaptive changes in genes associated with immunity and diet4. However, the limited data available from earlier hunter-gatherers preclude an understanding of the selective processes associated with this crucial transition to agriculture in recent human evolution. Here we sequence an approximately 7,000-year-old Mesolithic skeleton discovered at the La Braña-Arintero site in León, Spain, to retrieve a complete pre-agricultural European human genome. Analysis of this genome in the context of other ancient samples suggests the existence of a common ancient genomic signature across western and central Eurasia from the Upper Paleolithic to the Mesolithic. The La Braña individual carries ancestral alleles in several skin pigmentation genes, suggesting that the light skin of modern Europeans was not yet ubiquitous in Mesolithic times. Moreover, we provide evidence that a significant number of derived, putatively adaptive variants associated with pathogen resistance in modern Europeans were already present in this hunter-gatherer.
Relevance for the overall understanding of macro-haplogroup C
Until the discovery of this C6 lineage, there were some strong reasons to suspect that Y-DNA C may have coalesced already in SE Asia or, at least, very close to it, with its subclades forming by pairs a three pointed star with geographical center in that area: C1 and C3 in NE Asia (and America), C2 and C4 in Wallacea and Australasia and C5 and some rather homogeneous C* in India.
The discovery of this C6 lineage and its confirmation as a Paleolithic one in Europe (i.e. not a “recent” arrival from somewhere else) add phylogenetic weight to the Western geography of haplogroup C, one of two main subdivisions of the main non-African Y-DNA lineage CF. However we cannot yet reach to conclusions about the “exact” origins of C because the macro-lineage still awaits improvement of its phylogenetic structure at the basal levels.
In plain language: it is quite likely that C2 and C4 form a monophyletic clade and I would not be surprised at all if C1 and C3 do the same. But then it is also possible that C5 and the Indian C* and/or the European C6 also form their own distinct branches. It is even possible that some of these lineages are related across subcontinental regions, as was recently found within MNOPS
(aka K(xLT)). So we need first to know how they relate with each other a the top phylogenetic level before we can rush to any conclusion. In any case the discovery of C6 adds some preliminary weight to the hypothesis of C coalescing when still in South Asia.
There have been some rush to conclusions on the pigmentation of this and another Western European hunter-gatherer based only on genetics. I think that some of the conclusions are most likely incorrect, at least to some extent, because they are based on a SNP which only weights ~15% on skin coloration.
Judging on the figures (freely accessible, it seems), La Braña 1 carried two pigmentation alleles of gene SLC45A2 now rare among Europeans (but common elsewhere, i.e. the ancestral variant):
- rs16891982, which affects hair color (7x chances of black hair among Europeans)
- rs1426654, which affects skin pigmentation to some degree (correlated with skin color in Indians, irrelevant among modern Europeans because of fixation, weights only ~15% in Cape Verdeans’ skin coloration).
Notice that while you can find online reconstructions that give La Braña 1 a very dark coloration, this is not necessarily the case at all but rather an oversimplistic interpretation based only on one allele, allele that is not just dominant in West Asians and Europeans but also, for example, among Gujaratis, who are quite dark for European standards.
It seems correct anyhow that this allele was only brought to Europe with Neolithic farmers (Stuttgart had it) but its alleged effect on pigmentation seems very much exaggerated.
|Fig. 4 from Beleza 2013 highlights that no single gene is decisive in skin pigmentation.
It is probable anyhow that La Braña 1 had black hair.
It is much more plausible that he had blue eyes
because these are much more directly regulated by simple genetics.
Continuity of immunity genetics
La Braña 1 also had three immunity related alleles (derived variants) that have been retained at least to some extent by modern Europeans:
- rs2745098 (PTX4)
- rs11755393 (UHRF1BP1, related to lupus)
- rs10421769 (GPATCH1)
Comparison with global populations
Fig. 5 (ED) offers various comparisons of La Braña 1 and Mal’ta 1 (from Siberia) with modern humans from around the World:
|Extended Data Figure 5: Pairwise outgroup f3 statistics.
a, Sardinian versus Karitiana. b, Sardinian versus Han.
c, La Braña 1 versus Mal’ta. d, Sardinian versus Mal’ta.
e, La Braña 1 versus Karitiana. The solid line represents y = x.
We can see in them that, La Braña 1 clusters well with modern Europeans, while Mal’ta instead strongly tends towards other Asians, often clustering with Pakistanis (“Central/South Asia” metapopulation).
Maybe the most interesting graph is c, where we can see how the various populations deviate from the y=x line in the direction of La Braña (Europeans, West Asians) or Mal’ta (Native Americans particularly).
Comparison with Neolithic samples and modern Europeans
|Extended Data Figure 4: Allele-sharing analysis.
Each panel shows the allele-sharing of a particular Neolithic sample from refs 1 and 3 with La Braña 1 sample. The sample IDs are presented in the upper left of each panel (Ajv52, Ajv70, Ire8, Gok4 and Ötzi). In the upper right of each panel, the Pearson’s correlation coefficient is given with the associated P value.
In all cases Swedes (SE), followed by Polish (PL), etc. share the greatest amount of alleles with La Braña 1, although I’m not sure if the differences are really that relevant (is really 69.3% significantly different from 68.7%?)
In the vertical scale we can observe how the various populations tend more or less strongly towards various Neolithic samples (again with the same doubts about the significance of the differences). In the first row they are compared with Götland’s Pitted Ware individuals (of plausible Eastern European origins: strong cultural connections with Dniepr-Don Neolithic). Here Central Europeans show the greatest affinity with Ajv52 and Ajv70 (
Basques Bulgarians also score high). There are some differences in the case of individual Ire8, whose closest modern relatives seem to be the Dutch. Swedes only score high re. Ajv52 but low to the others, while Finns score neutral-to-low relative to all them.
The lower row compares with to mainstream Neolithic samples: Gok4 was a Megalithic farmer from SW Sweden and Ötzi was a Chalcolithic shepherd from Southern Tirol. The Swedish farmer is best approached by the Dutch, followed by various West-Central Europeans, while
Basques Bulgarians, Finns and Swedes score low here. In the case of Ötzi nobody scores particularly high (some tendency in Switzerland and nearby areas), while Finns score clearly low.
And that’s all I can say without direct access to the study. Enjoy.
Update: I already got the paper (thanks again to the donor), I’ll see to update as need be once I have time to read it. Minor urgent edits above in red (and slashed out text).
Update (Jan 29): The supplementary data is freely available (LINK) but I could not find it earlier. Almost all the information is in it, including a long list, much longer than mentioned above, of the SNPs found in La Braña 1, compared to various modern population frequencies. I don’t have time right now to dwell on it but I guess from a first read that I will have to amend some comments made on the issue of pigmentation above.
Regarding the Y-DNA haplogroup, it is important to notice that its adscription withing haplogroup C seems very clear but its assignation to C6-V20 is more dubious because of the low quality of the genome. Only the V20 marker could be assigned, so the authors themselves are in doubt and wonder if it could alternatively be C* or C5, both with a South Asian affinity.
In this sense I think it is worth noticing that the reference Y-DNA site ISOGG has recently revised the phylogeny of macro-haplogroup C and that they have already renamed C6-V20 as C1a2, making it a relative of the minor Japanese lineage earlier known as C1 (now renamed to C1a1), similarly South Asian C5-M356 has been renamed to C1b. So C1 is now perceived as a lineage that spans all Eurasia with an arguable South Asian centrality.
Another (Papuan?) lineage once known as “C6” has long vanished from the phylogeny because of lack of plural samples, I understand.