Voices from Russia

Friday, 13 December 2013

Link Between Native Americans and Siberia Encoded in DNA History

00 Tlingit people in traditional regalia. Alaska USA. 13.12.13

Tlingit people of Alaska in traditional regalia


Recently, a team of scientists, including seven researchers from Russia, revealed the results of a study on the DNA of the ancient inhabitants of Siberia during the Upper Palaeolithic period. Scientists were able to obtain new data on the early stages of human settlement in various continents, including the Americas. The research confirmed that the first inhabitants of the Americas, the Paleo-Indians, arrived via Beringia, an isthmus between Siberia and Alaska that existed at that time. Scientists consider Altai Krai the genetic birthplace of the first Americans. Their ancestors settled in Siberia and eventually reached the Americas. Whilst the first Americans were thought to have a close genetic relationship with East Asia, until now, scientists weren’t able to determine exactly to which people of the Old World their genes could be most closely be associated with. Through the study, scientists were able to make new conclusions about the makeup of ancient Native Americans.

The team, led by Maanasa Raghavan of the University of Copenhagen, studied the genome of the ancient inhabitants of Siberia and compared these data with the genes of other peoples. They published their results in Nature. The researchers took a DNA sample from the 24,000-year-old skeleton of an ancient inhabitant of Siberia, discovered during excavations in 1928–58 in Usolsky Raion (Irkutsk Oblast), near Malta station. Now, it’s part of the State Hermitage Museum collection. Scientists conducted DNA sequencing on the remains and compared the data with the genomes of individuals belonging to 11 modern ethnic groups, four Eurasian groups (ancestors of modern Mari, Tajiks, Avars, and East Indians), as well as with the genome associated with Denisovans, a subspecies of Homo Sapiens discovered recently in the Altai Mountains. The results showed how the Karitiana, an indigenous people from Brazil, are genetically close to ancient Siberians.

From these results, the study concluded that genes typical of the people of West Eurasia came to the Americas earlier than previously believed… namely 24,000 years ago, during the Upper Palaeolithic period. Furthermore, the data revealed why Native Americans carry haplogroup X, a mitochondrial DNA haplogroup commonly occurring among the peoples of western Eurasia, but not found among East Asians. Lyudmila Osipova, co-author of the study and head of the Population Ethno-Genetics Laboratory at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics SB RAN, said, “The results refer to the early stages of peopling of the continents, particularly Siberia and the Americas. In addition, they have indirect links to the issues of race genesis, although scientists discuss the matter cautiously. However, the issue is biological in nature and deeply connected to the topic of adaptation of human populations and to their different living conditions in different climatic zones of the globe”.

Osipova argued that despite the relatively good degree of research conducted by geneticists on the early peopling of our planet and the identification of early human migration patterns, life is more complicated than any taxonomy, saying, “The question is… ‘At what level of organisation were race genesis processes taking place… Homo sapiens, or, even at earlier stages?’ There are a lot of discoveries still to be made”. According to Osipova, the study confirms an earlier hypothesis about the origins of Native Americans, and provides a great deal of fundamental knowledge on lesser known aspects of migrations, including the movements of the people belonging to the European type towards the territory of Siberia in ancient times.

1 December 2013

Yana Khlyustova

Russia Behind the Headlines




Saturday, 6 July 2013

VOR Asks: Is Zimmerman Lying in the Trayvon Martin Case?

01 stick em up kitty kitten cat gun


Today, America’s following one of its most controversial murder cases… the killing of Trayvon Martin, 17, shot by George Zimmerman back in February 2012. Zimmerman, 29, is on trial for second-degree murder, but he plead not guilty, claiming he acted in self-defence after Martin attacked him. Zimmerman faces life imprisonment if convicted. Trayvon’s death sparked racial controversy around the country and the prosecutor keeps pushing that Zimmerman profiled Martin because he was black. VOR host Kim Brown offered her analysis of the trial up until this point. She’s closely followed the case; she believes that Zimmerman is lying. Kim’s two major points are:

  • The injuries to Zimmerman on the night Trayvon Martin died were “insignificant”
  • Zimmerman studied Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in college, although he denied it

The case triggered a real “pendulum of opinion”; some left-leaning media think that the prosecution is doing a good job, some rightwingers don’t even understand why Zimmerman faces any charges at all. Considering this situation, Kim dished out the facts… Zimmerman was caught in several lies, which some prefer to call “inconsistencies”. She said, “First of all, Zimmerman told the police that Martin ‘bashed his head repeatedly against the sidewalk’, but the Medical Examiner, Dr Rao, testified that Zimmerman’s head might’ve been bashed against concrete one or two times, but these were insignificant injuries. It wasn’t like his head exploded… he received superficial injuries, and we don’t even know how he got them”. Kim added the important point that the DNA expert testified that Trayvon had no foreign DNA under his hands, his fingernails, or even on the sleeve of his hoodie.

Zimmerman told the police that Martin bounced him in the face and that’s how Zimmerman ended on the ground. Zimmerman also claimed Martin used his hands to attempt to suffocate him, placing his hands over his mouth and nose. Kim wondered, “If Zimmerman’s asserting self-defence, how could Martin have whooped him without having DNA on his hands or sleeve? The witness testimony is conflicting, one of the neighbours testified that he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, beating him up mixed martial arts style, whilst other neighbours gave conflicting testimonies, ‘It was dark, it was raining, and nobody knew who was who’”. Kim suggests that the jury should completely disregard this testimony due to its contradictory nature.

The second inconsistency is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Last summer, in an exclusive interview, Zimmerman told Sean Hannity of Fox News Channel that he’d never heard of the Florida law that allows people to respond with deadly force, even if they have an opportunity to retreat, so long as they have a reasonable belief it’ll prevent great bodily harm or death. However, Zimmerman’s Professor of Criminal Justice testified that Zimmerman was familiar with the law, as it was repeatedly covered during class, for which Zimmerman received an A. Kim also assumed that Zimmerman took the class, as he aspired to be a police officer and even applied for a police job in North Virginia, but was rejected for “bad credit”. This didn’t slow down Zimmerman’s cop aspirations; he became a neighbourhood watchman, calling 911 and other emergency-related numbers to report suspicious activity. Kim said that he did this over 40 times; he once reported a black male behaving suspiciously, but it was only a boy between the age of 7 and 9.

The VOR host admits that, indeed, she’s biased concerning this case as she was “shaken with the picture of Trayvon Marin dead, although she knows that American society is violent and that people see dead bodies regularly. Martin didn’t deserve what he got; it’s obvious that Zimmerman overreached and overreacted”. The jury is all female; all except for one are mothers and white. Therefore, Kim urged them not to see all black people as a threat, saying, “Black young men, no matter how threatening you perceive them to be, are just minding their own business”. She was also impressed with Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel, 19, who had the “tremendous courage to stand in court” and testify that Trayvon was the only one who didn’t tease her at school, and that she was on the phone with him that night and that Martin told her that he was being followed. Kim will be following the trial; meanwhile, she expressed hope for objectivity and urged people to broaden their horizons and get some experience of interacting with other people of other nationalities and cultures to avoid fatal prejudices.

6 July 2013

Voice of Russia World Service



Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Scientists Say “Unclassified” Life Found in Antarctic Lake

00 Lake Vostok drilling. 12.03.13


A Russian scientist told RIA-Novosti that preliminary examination of water samples from ancient subglacial Lake Vostok near the South Pole indicated that a life-form found there is unique; it isn’t found anywhere else on Earth. Sergei Bulat, a researcher at the Laboratory of Eukaryote Genetics at the Boris Konstantinov St Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute (PIYaF), said, ”The species of bacteria, whose traces were found in probes of water from Lake Vostok, doesn’t belong to any of the 40-plus known subkingdoms of bacteria. After excluding all known contaminants… we discovered bacterial DNA that doesn’t match any known species listed in global databanks. We call it unidentified and ‘unclassified’ life”.

Seven samples of the same species of bacteria were found in water frozen on the head of the drill that was used in 2012 to reach the lake, which is covered by a 3.5-kilometre-thick ice sheet, but the match between its DNA and any known organisms never exceeded 86 percent, whilst Bulat noted that a match of under 90 percent is already enough to indicate a new species. Attempts to build a phylogenetic tree for the newly discovered micro-organism, which indicates a species’ evolutionary relationship to other species, showed that the Antarctic bacterium didn’t fit any of the main categories of micro-organisms in its taxonomic domain. Bulat said, “If it were found on Mars, people would call it Martian DNA, but this is DNA from Earth”. Bulat told us that tests continue, but are unlikely to disprove the results. He added that we need more samples for conclusive proof; possibly, researchers could find them in water from the lake obtained during a new drilling season earlier this year, which is on its way to Russia by ship.

Suspense over life under the Antarctic ice has built up ever since drilling began in 1989 to reach Lake Vostok, which could’ve isolated itself from the outside world as early as 17 million years ago. Drilling through the ice without contaminating the lake took the Russian team at Station Vostok, located just above the lake, 23 years to complete. Scientists suspected that unique species of extremophile microbes, sustained by geothermal heat and capable of surviving in Vostok’s extreme oxygen concentration, could’ve evolved in the lake. However, an early study of samples of surface water from the lake, published last year, found no unique life-forms, prompting speculation that the lake might be devoid of life after all… a theory that the most-recent findings appear to have disproved.

7 March 2013



Tuesday, 10 July 2012

10 July 2012. Sergei Yolkin’s World. The Evolution of Sex

The Evolution of Sex

Sergei Yolkin



In an article published in the journal Science, scientists showed that the evolution of the sexes in simple organisms, such as unicellular algae, began with the isolation and increase of specific gender roles using DNA and incorporating already-existing genes, giving rise to new features. This data provided the first confirmation of a model of the evolution of the two sexes, according to which the development and the increase of the DNA responsible for sexual dimorphism created genetic diversity, followed by giving already- existing genes new functions associated with the production of germ cells. James Youmans, the lead author of the work, a researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, said, “Until now, no one had insights based on experiential observation on how the evolution of sexual dimorphism in a given species took place, and what genetic changes are necessary for it”.

16 April 2010

Sergei Yolkin



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