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Earth Medicine Science

Biologists Create Genetic Map of Europe 287

Posted by Soulskill
from the unique-and-special-snowballs dept.
Death Metal Maniac brings us a story from the New York Times about a team of scientists who were able to relate genetic differences to geographical origins. Countries such as Germany, Austria, and France occupy the central area of the genetic map, with Italy, Finland, and the UK being relative outliers. Quoting: "All the populations are quite similar, but the differences are sufficient that it should be possible to devise a forensic test to tell which country in Europe an individual probably comes from, said Manfred Kayser, a geneticist at the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands. ... Genomic sites that carry the strongest signal of variation among populations may be those influenced by evolutionary change, Dr. Kayser said. Of the 100 strongest sites, 17 are found in the region of the genome that confers lactose tolerance, an adaptation that arose among a cattle herding culture in northern Europe some 5,000 years ago." Update: 08/16 15:11 GMT: Reader iminplaya points out the source article, which contains the technical details behind the study.
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Biologists Create Genetic Map of Europe

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  • by burnitdown (1076427) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @09:25AM (#24626135) Homepage Journal

    I recommend two books here:

    The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, by Samuel Huntington [amazon.com]
    The Great Human Diasporas: The History of Diversity and Evolution, by Luigi Cavalli-Sforza et al [amazon.com]

    Once humans evolved from apes, they went through several stages to create modern humans.

    After that, modern humans underwent more aggressive development. This differentiated population groups.

    Much like different programming languages are optimized for different tasks, but you can create just about anything in just about any language, human populations are different based on the optimizations that came about through their branch divergence.

    This creates ethnicities, nationalities, and clines as mapped by Cavalli-Sforza.

    Huntington points out that most of our modern wars have been caused by the nation-state, or an "imperial" grouping by politics that crosses these optimization lines, and suggests that as the superpower age winds down, people will identify with their optimization more than abstract and often illusory political concepts.

    This is especially useful in understanding the difference between Georgia, Ossetia and Russia. For those who live in nation-states of an imperial nature, like the United States, Canada, Russia or UK, it's hard to grasp this, but not every country views itself as composed of generic people.

    They view themselves as an organic nation, a notion which we may quaintly call "tribalism" yet seems to unite people with values more solidly than financial or political motivations.

    The future will be determined by the struggle for these organic nations to define themselves.

    All IMHO.

    • I've recently been reading Will Durant's [wikipedia.org] Story of Civilization [wikipedia.org], which I can tell you is no mean feat, but is a labor of love as they're so well written. In Volume IV, The Age of Faith [wikipedia.org]. Chapter 4, in particular, "The Dark Ages: AD 566-1095" has some fascinating comings and goings and goings and comings of various tribes all over Europe and the Near East. Magyars, Slavs, Croats, Turks, Mongols, Lombards, Serbs, Belarusians, Bulgarians and a hundred more warring, migrating, interbreeding - it's pretty damn f
    • neo tribalism (Score:3, Informative)

      by globaljustin (574257)

      Huntington is certainly an excellent scientist, but his socio-political theories about why wars are fought are better left to experts in that field

      Huntington points out that most of our modern wars have been caused by the nation-state, or an "imperial" grouping by politics that crosses these optimization lines

      This argument is ridiculously reductive. First, what's the definition of 'war' in this context? I tried to imagine the different ways you can define 'war' and how they'd fit into this theory and none o

      • Re:neo tribalism (Score:4, Informative)

        by Scott Carnahan (587472) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @01:25PM (#24627783) Homepage

        Huntington is certainly an excellent scientist, but his socio-political theories about why wars are fought are better left to experts in that field

        I disagree with your first claim. Huntington [wikipedia.org] has a well-established record of fabricating history to suit his ideas. The standard example is his claim that South Africa in the 1960s under Apartheid fit his definition of satisfied society. To back up his claim, he falsely asserted that there were no notable protests or uprisings during this time. Fortunately, there were ample news archives that contradicted him. Unfortunately, people still listen to his bold pseudoscientific pronouncements about societies and their interactions.

        You can find the same flavor nonsense in pretty much anything written by his student Fareed Zakaria.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by greg_barton (5551) *

      The future will be determined by the struggle for these organic nations to define themselves.

      Nice try, but you should have just said RAHOWA [rahowa.com] and gotten it over with.

    • by guanxi (216397) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @11:39AM (#24627073)

      I never thought the race-war bozos would make it onto /. It's the usual propoganda: Name check someone prominent (who didn't say anything in support of your argument), add some bogus theory with no support (but imply that it comes from the famous names), through in a little kernel of plausibility (hey, there's racism right? Maybe we are all genetically pre-disposed to hate each other), and stir.

      Much like different programming languages are optimized for different tasks, but you can create just about anything in just about any language, human populations are different based on the optimizations that came about through their branch divergence.

      See? Hmmm ... seems plausible. But think: Maybe I'm different based on the country I was born in, the way my parents fed me, raised me (the fact that I had loving parents), their wealth and social connections, the forces and choices that formed my personality. My education, the books I read, what I chose to study, my teachers and role models, how hard I worked at it, how well I networked, the career and jobs I chose, the person I married, the city I live in ... Where does this genetic optimization come in?

      I recommend the same books as burnitdown, only you should read them and not just name-check them. I read Huntington's Clash of Civilizations [foreignaffairs.org] when it was first published in Foreign Affairs. It says nothing at all about genetics or "optimization", only super-national cultural groups called 'civilizations', which are genetically diverse (see list here [wikipedia.org] ). You can read more here [wikipedia.org].

      I haven't read Cavalli-Sforza, but The Economist seems to think [wikipedia.org] that his work challenges the assumption that there are significant genetic differences between human races, and indeed, the idea that 'race' has any useful biological meaning at all. Hmmm ... that seems opposite the ideas that burnitdown cited.

      So Burnitdown is just talking out of his backside, start to finish. There is no outside support for it at all. I can't even imagine how it applies to Georgia, Russia, and North & South Ossetia. Does anyone know closely their populations correlate genetically? And why, on that basis, would South Ossetians want Russian more than Georgian citizenship? What the heck is 'Russian' genetically, anyway -- the country stretches from Europe to the Pacific; are they really genetically homogeneous?

      Whenever I read something like this, I always try to remember: Think of the people who promolgate this theory of inevitable race-war hatred: From Milosovic to Bin Laden (who rails against Jewish people) to the Rwandan Hutu extremists to the KKK to, yes, Adolf Hitler. What have they accomplished? Then think of those who say that humans can integrate and live together regardless of supposed 'race', from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr., to Mahatma Gandhi and almost any current leader of prominence. Who has been more successful? Whose side would you rather be on?

      Did you know that by the 3rd generation, most immigrants to the US marry across 'cultural' lines? Did you know that the rate of interracial marriage has increased ~700% in the US since 1970 [1] [wikipedia.org]?

      • by bsDaemon (87307)

        If our lives were closer to natural, it would be more obvious. That tecnhology has enabled us to all but remove the need for evolution, then biological adaptations approach moot.

        -- The ancestors of Northern Europeans (and those of us whose ancestors originated there) have light skin and eyes because it was advantageous to have less melonin for Vitamin D production, and blue eyes allow in more light than brown eyes.

        -- Africans and other Equitorial people are darker of skin and eyes for exactly the opposite

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DavidShor (928926)
          Skin color is obvious enough. The problem is that people try to extend this to intelligence, and use a remarkably dishonest and simplistic biology to reinforce their preconceived notions about race.

          The truth is, human beings are remarkably interbred(As long as you are not from the Andaman islands, you likely have a much much closer common ancestor with a Chinese person than you think), and even without that, we branched off into respective continents very recently.

          At the same time, intra-race variations

          • by bsDaemon (87307)

            At the same time, intra-race variations usualy are a lot more signifigant then inter-race ones. I recall a study showing that the Scott's and Irish on average, show much lower IQ scores then the English. Yet racists tend to ignore that.

            It depends on the racist, I suppose. The Ian Paisleys of the world are a lot fewer than the David Dukes, that's for sure, but all of them do so love that band "Skrewdriver."

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by amilo100 (1345883)
        I do not agree with the above poster - but your counter argument is even more wrong.

        Name check someone prominent (who didn't say anything in support of your argument), add some bogus theory with no support (but imply that it comes from the famous names),

        You did the same thing below (only using Gandhi's name).

        Maybe I'm different based on the country I was born in, the way my parents fed me, raised me (the fact that I had loving parents), their wealth and social connections, the forces and choices
        • by DavidShor (928926)
          I personally doubt that racial differences are very significant for the traits that racists like to talk about. And I would prefer if we spent our grant money on more things .

          But, I never heard of that stuff about Gandhi. Thank you for posting it, it was very interesting.

      • I'm sorry, where was there racism?

        The point was that ethnoculturalism is on the rise, and Huntington and Cavalli-Sforza document it.

        My point was that racism is not correlative to it, if we think clearly, and in that Cavalli-Sforza and I agree: nationalism and the tracking of culture through ethnicity is NOT racism.

        It is, however, a view of history that is becoming increasingly prominent, as Huntington argues. Notice how he describes the organic states he analyzes in the course of the book. It is conflatable

      • Huntington seems to fall in the primordialist school, believing that culturally defined groups are ancient and natural, however his early work would suggest he is a Structural Functionalist. His view that nation states would remain the most powerful actors is in line with realism. Finally, his warning that the Western civilization may decline is inspired by Arnold J. Toynbee, Carroll Quigley, and Oswald Spengler.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clash_of_civilizations [wikipedia.org]

        I am afraid "quanxi" has not read any of thes

    • I'm not convinced that culture, rather than genetics, has more to do with the groupings you describe, but that's a very large subject and one that's caused much strife in the 20th Century. On a lighter note, I really wanted to respond to this: This is especially useful in understanding the difference between Georgia, Ossetia and Russia. For those who live in nation-states of an imperial nature, like the United States, Canada, Russia or UK, it's hard to grasp this, but not every country views itself as comp
    • by PPH (736903)

      The map appears to hint at some interesting ideas with respect to population diversity. It appears that the wealthiest and most productive regions per capita are the ones with the most genetic overlap.

      This might be an idea worth testing statistically and on a global basis as well.

      • by DavidShor (928926)
        Seems like more of a coincidence. And considering that they only tested "native" populations, when a huge percentage of the "moneyed" class are immigrants, accentuates this.

        15 years ago, Italy had a higher gdp/capita then the UK, which would have thrown the pattern off.

        Globally, countries like Singapore, Botswana, and Chile would throw the pattern off.

    • by JLavezzo (161308)

      "It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens."

      "That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled--what harm is there in this? ... Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away,

    • by jmpeax (936370) *
      I find it very hard to understand how you can think that genetics defines the development of people more than their environment.

      You're either seriously misguided or being intellectually dishonest.
    • by kels (9845)

      The future will be determined by the struggle for these organic nations to define themselves.

      Isn't that pretty much how the first half of the 20th century was determined?

    • by pjt33 (739471)

      For those who live in nation-states of an imperial nature, like the United States, Canada, Russia or UK, it's hard to grasp this, but not every country views itself as composed of generic people.

      You sound serious, but when I read this I had to wonder whether you were pulling my leg. If the US views itself as composed of generic people, why is such a big fuss made about Obama being black? How many Canadians do you think don't know that Quebec separatists exist? How many Russians don't know that Russia contains a number of republics with their own titular nationality? How many Brits don't know the difference between England and the UK? And leaving aside your examples, isn't the nature of an "imperial

  • ...and I won't tolerate it.

  • oh dear (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thermian (1267986) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @09:39AM (#24626215)

    Good job Hitler never had this kind of info. I can't see that as having ended well.

    • by LizardKing (5245)
      It's a shame the information *wasn't* available, as it disproves any notion of Germans being radically different in their genetic makeup from most other Europeans - including Slavic people like the Czechs and Poles.
      • Re:oh dear (Score:5, Insightful)

        by M. Baranczak (726671) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @10:02AM (#24626361)

        It's nice to think so, but it wouldn't have made any difference. A "great ideology" never lets facts get in the way.

    • You can find a good summary of pre-WWII and thereabouts European ethnic knowledge summarized in Carleton Coon's The Origin of Races [amazon.com] (1962) which used previous knowledge and later archaelogy to derive conclusions. Included a number of photographic plates showing different European archetypes.

  • Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LizardKing (5245) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @09:39AM (#24626217)
    Surprising how far "out there" the Finnish genetic makeup is, considering the long period of integration with Sweden. It's also interesting that this kind of research may give us the final pieces to jigsaw of migration that took place from the Urals to Central and Northern Europe. This great migration of the tribes is what lead to Finno-Ugrian people ending up around the Baltic and in Hungary, but it's still unclear where the tribes "split up", one lot heading north and the other west. The closeness of the Hungarian genetic makeup to other Central Europeans must reflect the massive amount of migration and conquest that occurred across that region (by various Slavic and Turkic peoples in particular), along with a fair bit of Germanic immigration through trading.
    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday August 16, 2008 @09:48AM (#24626259) Homepage

      The history of Hungarian migration is pretty clear, actually. The Hungarians were living with their closest Uralic brethren, the Khanty and Mansi tribes, in the south Russian steppes around the beginning of the Common Era. The expansion of the Turkic peoples brought a tribe, evidentally speaking a Chuvash-type language, into contact with some Hungarians, who then learnt horsemanship and began to move west. A number of Hungarians remained behind, and when the Friar Julianus visited the area eight hundred years ago, he was able to communicate with them.

      The Hungarian migration to the Carpathian Basin happened fairly recently compared to the spread of Uralic languages to northwestern Russia, Finland and Scandinavia, which must have been complete a thousand years before the beginning of the Common Era.

      • by LizardKing (5245)
        It is, or at least was when I was at university, the migration up until the period when Finno-Ugrians were in the Southern Steppes that was unclear. In other words, the initial movements West from the Urals, and the split that saw some go North and others to the steppes - where as you describe, they settled for a considerable amount of time before moving on to the sparsely populated Carpathian basin. I'm going to try and get up to date by reading Cartledge's recent history of Hungary "A Will To Survive" soo
    • by Reziac (43301) *

      In my observation, Finns and Ukranians tend to look more alike than Finns and Swedes. I'm referring here to macro traits like skull shape, bone structure, and mannerisms even in people not raised in that culture (and are probably partly dependent on structure, hence genetic). But I seem to recall that a swath of what was eaten by the USSR used to be Finnish territory.

  • Lack of overlap (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Guppy06 (410832) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @09:50AM (#24626277)

    I'm now kind of curious about how such a map of North America would look in comparison, because to me there are some pretty big areas here where there is no overlap (Great Britain, southern Italy, Poland, Sweden...). They've been on the same continent for how many centuries, and they're still so distinct?

    • by xaxa (988988)

      Remember travelling was only for the rich until not so long ago. The first inter-city railway was only opened in 1830 (Liverpool to Manchester), before that most people couldn't afford the time or the money to travel further than to the nearest town.

      Add to that the language barriers, probably cultural barriers and it's not so surprising.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Paul Jakma (2677)

        That's not really true. E.g. notice the overlap between Ireland, Norway and Denmark, due to some degree to Viking tribes pillaging and then settling in Ireland, in the 600s to 800s (I think - going out on a limb by not checking wikipaedia first). You could go and on in similar fashion.

        You can go back further in time and find evidence of trade stretching across Europe and even beyond. Even as far as back as *neo-lithic* (ie late stone age, circa 4k years ago) times, there is evidence of trade routes as stone

      • by jc42 (318812)

        Remember travelling was only for the rich until not so long ago. The first inter-city railway was only opened in 1830 (Liverpool to Manchester), before that most people couldn't afford the time or the money to travel further than to the nearest town.

        Huh? By 1830, the British had extensive "holdings" around the world. 50 years earlier, their empire had already spun off a significant English-speaking nation several thousand miles away, across an ocean. The British Empire may have been led by the rich, but

        • by xaxa (988988)

          There was a *huge* amount less travel before the 19th century. Of course explorers, traders, sailors and soldiers travelled -- otherwise there'd be no mixing at all -- but most people didn't.

          And sorry, but most ordinary people really couldn't travel, intermix and interbreed before modern transportation. That's why we have different languages, cultures and nations.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by julian67 (1022593)
      Great Britain might be part of Europe politically and in geological terms but there is the barrier of the English Channel which has kept us safe from French, Spanish and German invasion attempts for 900 years. The last 4 successful invasions of Britain were by the Normans in the 11th century, by the Angles, Saxons, Jutes et al in the 5th/6th century, by Vikings in the 9th/10th centuries and by the Romans in the 1st century. Probably not a lot changed in terms of the genetic profile of the population for man
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by Eudial (590661)

        Still, I expected to see more Italian<->British relation/overlap (because of the whole roman deal you mentioned). Looking at British people and Italian people, you can often see the resemblance in facial features hair/skin color, etc. in a way you can't between, say, Italian and German people (naturally, there are Italian looking Germans, but they are to my experience more rare than Britons).

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by julian67 (1022593)
          The Roman legions weren't necessarily Italians, the soldiers would have been from all over Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. I don't know enough about the history to know if there was any great mixing of populations but the Roman occupation was only about 350 years in Britain, compared to many times more in Europe, and there were numerous rebellions and even the complete destruction of Roman armies and cities, so perhaps it was more like a military occupation than a settlement and integration. From
        • by fsmunoz (267297)
          That resemblance you mention is more likely due to the shared origins of native Britons and Iberians than any Roman conquest. This is well known due to the R1b Y haplogorup distribution that reaches the highest percentages in Iberia and the British Isles (and especially in Ireland).

          See this reference [findarticles.com] for some further info, although the information in there is rather speculative.
        • I'd love to know how you managed to get modded troll.

      • Re:Lack of overlap (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Guppy06 (410832) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @12:19PM (#24627315)

        "Great Britain might be part of Europe politically and in geological terms but there is the barrier of the English Channel which has kept us safe from French, Spanish and German invasion attempts for 900 years."

        And yet Ireland shows more overlap with with continent than Great Britain.

  • Accuracy of map? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SystematicPsycho (456042) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @09:51AM (#24626289)

    The map should have included Russia and other Eastern European areas. Also, one thing that makes me skeptical of the maps accuracy is there doesn't appear to be an overlap between EL and IT2.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Greece and Italy are near each other, but do not overlap.
      Not terribly surprising as Greece was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and Italy was not, therefore having more of an East European and Arab influence.

  • Shall we [current-biology.com]?

  • Misleading title (Score:3, Informative)

    by Stoutlimb (143245) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @09:55AM (#24626311)

    If this was the USA, it would be like making a map of the pacific states and some midwest states, and calling it a map of the USA. Where's the rest?

    The country at the geographical centre of Europe (Ukraine) isn't even on there. Neither is Russia. Not to mention the dozens of smaller states. No wonder Finland is way out there... they're very similar to Russians who aren't on the map, like they weren't even part of Europe. This article is either very bad journalism or serious EU snobbery.

    • Although people are always trying to redraw these boundaries for political reasons, many consider Russia, the Ukraine, et al, to be part of "Eurasia" and not "Europe." Your politics may differ and I doubt some God is going to descend and declare one right and not the other.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tietokone-olmi (26595)

      It also ignores the distinct ethnic groups (e.g. the different groupings of Sami) present in Norway, Sweden and Finland and apparently completely omits Iceland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine and other countries that're at least as far east as Finland.

      As an amateur with no competence in this stuff whatsoever, I'd say that Finland's outlier status on this diagram follows the sample. The not so nice part is of course that now the papers are going to pronounce Finns as some kind of freaks in Europe, when

      • Re:Misleading title (Score:4, Informative)

        by Iloinen Lohikrme (880747) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @01:25PM (#24627793)

        I disagree with you on regards that samples make Finland separated on the map. To me the result of this study really doesn't come as an surprise. If we look at Finland's geographical location and it's history it would be a surprise if we would be genetically closer to our European neighbors. Geographically we have been isolated by other nations and people, yes other people have traded and had impact with Fins but that interaction have been very small compared as people have had to travel with boat to hear. Notable feature of Finland's geographical location in periferia of Europe was that Mongols didn't invade it. Also after Fins were converted to Catholicism the eastern regions of Finland were more or less in constant war/conflict with their eastern relatives that were converted to Orthodox faith. In addition we should also note the kingdom of Sweden had severe restrictions on who could come and locate to Finland. In example after the Lutheran reformation it was forbidden and punished by death for other than reformed to come or locate to the kingdom. Another example is that Jews were completely forbidden on locating to Finland, only after Finland became a part of Russia were Jews allowed to locate to Finland. In this sense its not a surprise that we are in the edge of the map separated from others.

        I also don't think that Finnish position in the edge of the map wouldn't change even if there had been samples from Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine and Russia. The Baltic nations have been in constant touch with Germans, Polish and Russians, but not as much with Finnish or Swedish. It would be interesting to know how close related Fins are to Ukrainian and Russians, but I believe that both of them might be closer to central Europeans as Germanic tribes have originally come from east and more importantly all these nations have interacted quite much with each other, note in example Volga Germans, and of course have endured same invasions as in example Mongols.

        It would be nice to have more data and more results from different areas, but then again in a big picture data about such a small populations like Sami people wouldn't really make difference. On a note about Sami people, I read from Helsingin Sanomat that Finland is divided to too genetically different populations, the genetic line goes from Oulu to Kotka. People living in western Finland are genetically more related to Swedish and people living in the eastern and northern section resemble more on original natives that came to Finland. This of course nicely proves that there is something different about those evil bastards from Savo ;)

    • by Paul Jakma (2677)

      Stoutlimb meet scope and funding, and likewise..

  • Italian (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seyyah (986027) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @10:01AM (#24626357)
    The article is quite light on details, but instead of the Alps, couldn't the reason for the Italian blob being outside the rest of Europe have more to do with it having absorbed a significant Arab/Berber population from North Africa?

    The Iberian peninsula is also cut off by mountains but it sits in nicely with the rest of Europe. Of course Spain also had its Berbers and Arabs but kicked them - and the Jews - out rather successfully in 1492.
    • Re:Italian (Score:4, Informative)

      by LizardKing (5245) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @10:10AM (#24626423)
      I wasn't aware of significant, if any, influx of North Africans or Arabs into Italy (the really recent immigration from North Africa hasn't had time to impact the genetic makeup of the population as a whole). The only part of Italy that I'm aware has had a North African or Arab influence is Sicily, where the Sicilian language at least has Arab influences (as well as Latin, Spanish, Norman French and some German influences). There's also a dialect in Sicily that is strongly Albanian influenced, and unintelligible to other Sicilian language speakers, the result of a significant migration of Albanians a long time ago who then remained pretty much in one small region.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Reziac (43301) *

        I remember reading that the native pre-Rome population of Italy was mainly of ancient Celtic roots and types, ie. the same as for most of central Europe. But the Romans imported both slaves and commerce partners from North Africa, and subsequent interbreeding is where what we think of as the "typical dark and often curly-haired Italian" came from.

        The same applies to Spain -- until the Moors, who left behind a lot of their genes despite being kicked out as overlords, the average Spaniard was light-coloured j

  • by houghi (78078) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @10:50AM (#24626717)

    Belgium does apparently have no people or are such a rare breed that it would falsify the map.

    • by Daimanta (1140543)

      THat comes as no surprise.

      Belgians are either "Dutch" or "French". The people in Flanders are Dutch and speak Dutch. The people Wallonia are French and speak French.

      There are elements in both societies that want to reunify both nations(Flanders+ The Netherlands and Wallonia + France).

      • by owlnation (858981)
        Almost... there are some Germans too.
      • by houghi (78078)

        I live in Belgium. I am aware of the situation.

        On a serious note: it is strange that you say that Belgians are either Dutch or French, because a study like this could look if there is genetic similarities or not. e.g. many people I know that are speaking one language do have the last name that is clearly of the other language.

        Also it might be interesting to see if they are actualy, as you claim, French or Dutch or if they are Belgian (or Flemish or Walloon). However my guess is that the study is much too ge

  • by voss (52565) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @10:51AM (#24626719)

    "...Most people switch off the lactose digesting gene after weaning, but the cattle herders evidently gained a great survival advantage by keeping the gene switched on through adulthood."

    Behold the power of cheese!

  • Decades of research? (Score:2, Informative)

    by GooDieZ (802156)

    They don't even have a whole map of europe...

    Oh... and Yugoslavia, actually there is no Yugoslavia for last 17 Years, it fell apart in 1991...

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      As I understand it, there never really was a Yugoslavia; it was created as an umbrella over several smaller countries.

      Wikipedia: "The first country to be known by this name was the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which before 3 October 1929 was known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. It was established on 1 December 1918 by the union of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs and the Kingdom of Serbia."

      And now the umbrella has blown away, and once again we have the individual kingdoms of Serbs, Croats, a

  • the differences are sufficient that it should be possible to devise a forensic test to tell which country in Europe an individual probably comes from, said Manfred Kayser

    As an English / Greek / Irish / Burmese person I say: bring it on!
  • PCA limitations (Score:3, Informative)

    by denoir (960304) on Saturday August 16, 2008 @03:41PM (#24628841)

    While their research is certainly interesting it does suffer from them using PCA for creating the map. PCA is a linear transform that finds the axes of an ellipsoid that encompasses the data. This is an enormous simplification that seldom works well on real-world data. For an illustration of what PCA does and the problems with the simplification, see this [peltarion.com]. For the math, see this [wikipedia.org].

    Now, the problem is that with such a simplification the resulting map is nearly meaningless. It only shows how things would have been distributed had the genetic data and the geographic data been neatly ordered in a form that could be described with a second degree n-dimensional body (i.e. an ellipsoid). There are much better non-linear methods, such as kernel PCA that most likely would have produced a much more accurate picture. PCA does have its uses and can indeed be used for mapping geo-genetic information, but the data needs to be statistically separated to a very large degree. This is an impossibility for Europe that has a limited genetic diversity and where the overlap between different groups is large.

    I'd love to see their data analyzed with a bit more powerful algorithms.

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