Your mtDNA haplogroup affects your health

Paleogenetics: Foray into a deserted Europe

Today's Europeans have nothing in common with the creators of the impressive cave paintings in Lascaux or Chauvet. Because the works of art were created thousands of years before a decisive turning point that researchers have now come across when analyzing old genes. Climatically turbulent times ushered in a phase of upheaval, at the end of which the continent might even be left almost deserted.

The turbulent history of the continent can be read from the genes of today's Europeans. They reveal the traces of a presumably Indo-European immigration, the legacies of early arable farmers from the Middle East - and also the hunter-gatherer cultures that roamed the country before sedentarism and agriculture took hold.

This article is contained in Spectrum Compact, Man & Earth - The Settlement of the Continents

But there is probably no trace of a group of long-term residents in the gene pool: of the descendants of the first anatomically modern humans who penetrated to Europe around 45,000 years ago, met the Neanderthals here, endured ice age temperatures and also the great cultural achievements of the Paleolithic spawned.

An international team of researchers led by Johannes Krause from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Man in Jena became aware of her disappearance. It had taken gene samples from a total of 35 skeletons that had come to light during excavations. The oldest find was 35,000 years old, the youngest 7000. Krause and his team determined the so-called mitochondrial DNA, which every person inherits exclusively from their mother and which can be identified particularly well by the relationships between populations. From the data, lines of descent can be calculated, which are referred to as haplogroups - belonging to a haplogroup reveals where the maternal line of a person comes from. All haplogroups taken together result in a family tree whose roots lie in Africa, the much-cited "cradle of mankind".

An unexpected lineage

The amazing thing is that three samples from the earliest era belonged to a haplogroup that the researchers hadn't planned on, group M. "I was convinced that there must be a mistake," says Cosimo Posth from the University of Tübingen, the main author of the Study, in a communication from the university. “Because this haplogroup cannot be found in today's Europeans. In contrast, it is widespread in Asia and in the original Australian and American populations. "

They also found other haplogroups that fit more into the picture. The vast majority of recent finds, for example, belonged to the U-Line, which is a forerunner of common groups today.