Archive for the ‘DNA’ Category
Last week I was just an average guy. I was born in an average size town situated in a small state where not much goes on, well, unless you count the state fair, fishing, and raising chickens. Lots and lots of chickens.
Things changed for me just a couple of days ago, when I learned that my lineage began in East Africa where the ancestors on my mother’s side, who were among the first people to leave their homeland, moved northward to follow good weather and plentiful game. The arduous trek took them along the banks of the Nile where water was plentiful, for a change. Their descendants eventually wound up in the Mediterranean region and western Asia, where they hung out with Neanderthals. Now, this was some 60,000 years ago, so “hanging out” merely meant to co-exist, not yuck it up together at the local cave bar while sipping on dinosaur dung daiquiris.
Along the same time, my father’s ancestors also journeyed out of Africa to the Middle East, India, and Europe. They were hunters and gatherers. Actually, a fair number of these folks, Mbuti and Biaka Pygmies, remained in Africa (I guess I now understand the short stature of many of my relatives).
My father’s peeps, some of the first to arrive in Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia (they were the ancestors of the Aborigines) eventually made their way to the Americas.
Sometime around 50,000 years ago (no, grandson, I know you think I’m old, but I was not alive back then), the males in my lineage gave rise to the genetic marker that is currently found in 90-95% of all non-Africans. This group had settled in the Middle East; however, the climate there grew colder, so, being nomadic, they moved on to bigger, better, and warmer places, traveling through what is now known as Iran, to Antolia (Turkey) and the Balkins. Our lineage is still found today in a small number of Pakistani’s.
Meanwhile, my mother’s ancestors, some now Cro-Magnon, had reached Europe. Their friends, the Neanderthals, had ceased to exist. My maternal ancestors’ lineage can still be found in people of Ethiopia, Somalia, and Arabia.
Near Endaselassie, Ethiopia
Still moving, many of my maternal ancestors settled into Western Europe, Asia, and southern portions of Russia. Some made their way back into Africa where they likely fell victim to the Arab slave trade.
So, with changing climate and the urge to travel (now I understand why Denene and I have moved so often over the years), a large number of my mother’s ancestors ended up in Rome and Athens. In fact, our particular marker is found in 40-60% of European populations.
So, as my mother’s people were finally establishing some roots in Europe, my paternal ancestors were still on the move. One specific marker in their genetic make up started in Central Asia, but moved on to Europe—the UK, Ireland, France, and Spain.
Part of my lineage can be found today in Russia, Northern Africa, the Balkins, Asia, and in approximately 55-58% of Western European lineages (43% of Central European lineages). Some made the journey to the Americas.
My male genes are strongly present in France, Ireland, and Spain. And our presence is known in Iraq, Lebanon, and Kazakhstan. I’m distantly related to Croatians, but more closely related to the Ashkenazi Jewish population.
Finally, my parents met, dated, and enjoyed spending time with each family, not really knowing a lot about either.
My mother’s grandmother was Native American (Cherokee), and I distinctly remember her long silky-black hair that remained dark even into her elder years. Her eyes were the color of burnt motor oil. She was a quiet and soft-spoken woman who loved to cook on the wood stove in her small kitchen. Everything was homemade, including the bread pudding and yeast rolls that I adored.
My great-grandmother was the only person in my immediate family of a different ethnic background, or so I thought. Never would I have expected to be related to Mbuti and Biaka Pygmies, or that my ancestors had been slaves. Sure, I knew that all man had originated in Africa, but I guess I never really thought about the journeys that took place during the thousands of years after my first genetic marker was born.
Having my DNA examined by the National Geographic Genegraphic Project certainly opened my eyes. The experiences took me on an adventure that began some 140,000 years ago, and will continue until men and women no longer exist. And, with all the troubles in the world today, the end of human existence may not be all that far away. I’m just saying…
Detectives Slim N. None and Frank Lee Iduncare caught the case of their careers when Captain I. Giterdun assigned them to investigate the murder of one of Savannah’s most popular ghost tour managers, I.C. Spooks.
The two top cops arrived on the scene and found Ms. Spooks’ body (her friends call her Ida, they’d learned) lying in a cobblestone alley just off River Street, near the entrance to the Gulp ‘Em Down Oyster Bar and Rot Gut Drink Emporium.
No witnesses and no obvious clues. No weapon and no sign of injury or open wounds. Not even so much as a chipped fingernail. No footprints on the stones. Not a single thing to go on. Well, except for a tiny dot of something reddish brown on the tip of the victim’s right index finger. None said the drop certainly looked like blood. To be certain, though, they’d have to wait for the autopsy report, hoping the M.E. would come up with the impossible. In the meantime, the detectives did what they do best…knocked on doors and asked a lot of questions. In other words, they pestered people until they either talked or slammed the door in the eager faces of the two detectives. The latter being the more common occurrence.
Turns out that it was DNA that solved the Spooks murder case. Below are the possible findings of Savannah medical examiner Y. N. Sizion. Nine of the things listed could be true scenarios. One, however, is not. Do you have what it takes to spot the April Fools finding? Well, let’s see if your protagonist really knows her DNA, or, if her knowledge was gained from watching Castle reruns.
1. After developing a list of ten perfectly possible perpetrators, a positive match to suspect number ten was discovered by matching DNA from the crime scene to the DNA found in a recently-formed dental mold (the suspect was fitted for a new crown the day prior to the murder).
2. The suspect was identified by matching DNA found at the crime scene to DNA found on the mouth opening of a seriously shrunken ski mask located in a overflowing and lopsided clothes basket in the suspect’s apartment.
3. The medical examiner found a single foreign hair (no root) lodged deep in the throat of the victim. DNA found in the hair matched the DNA of one of the suspects.
4. The killer had forced oral copulation on the victim prior to her death. The victim’s DNA matched DNA swabbed from the suspect’s “private part” several hours after the offense.
5. DNA found on a cigarette butt lying near the victim’s body matched the DNA of one of the ten suspects. Faced with the DNA evidence linking him to the crime scene, he, suspect number seven, confessed to the murder.
6. Detective Iduncare found a crumpled postcard wedged between the north side trolley rail and a loose cobblestone. DNA found on the back of the card’s postage stamp was a positive match to suspect number four.
7. None and Iduncare were pleased and positively elated when the lab identified suspect number five by matching the DNA found at the crime scene to the DNA extracted from the suspect’s red blood cells.
8. A scientist from the lab called Iduncare to deliver the news he’d been waiting to hear…yes, the scientist had indeed discovered DNA on Spooks’ body, but what she’d found was a mixture, meaning there could have been more than one suspect. She went on to say that since her discovery was a mixture, she would not and could not positively include or exclude any one person as a suspect in the crime.
9. Detective None interviewed the Gulp ‘Em Down bartender and learned the poor woman had a nasty cold. She also said that, out of curiosity, she’d walked over to have a look at the body where she engaged in one of the worst coughing and sneezing fits of her entire 27 years on the planet. And, yes, she probably sprayed the corpse with quite a bit a spittle in the process. “That wasn’t a problem, was it?” the pink and green-haired woman asked while using a wadded bar napkin to mop the end of her dripping nose. Detective None learned from the folks at the lab that blowing cold remnants on a dead body could indeed compromise whatever DNA they found.
10. During the testing, scientists found the DNA of several people on the victim’s body, including that of None and Iduncare, who should have worn gloves while processing the crime scene.
After the lab results finally came back, and all was sorted through and pawed at by a team of prosecutors, None and Iduncare were finally able to slap the cuffs onto the wrists of their suspect(s).
And, future ghost tours were proud to boast of a brand new spirit, the recently departed I.C. Spooks, whose ghost could often be seen peering out at tourists from behind windows of various businesses and storefronts along the riverfront.
*Top photo – Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department
* Bottom photo – I.C. (Ida) Spooks