• Shortcuts : 'n' next unread feed - 'p' previous unread feed • Styles : 1 2

» Publishers, Monetize your RSS feeds with FeedShow:  More infos  (Show/Hide Ads)


Date: Saturday, 05 Apr 2014 19:28

'Based on AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates for over 300,000 AncestryDNA customers*, the AncestryDNA science team set out to discover the “most Irish” regions of the U.S.':

States with the highest Irish ancestry

First, for all AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates of people born in the same state, we averaged their fractions of Irish ethnicity. Then, we found the U.S. states whose residents have the highest, and lowest, amounts of Irish ancestry.

On the map are the top five states with the highest average Irish ancestry. Massachusetts is #1, and all of the other top states are also in the Northeast.

AncestryDNA estimates its Massachusetts-born customers average 28.5% Irish genetically, which is reasonably close to my surname-based estimate of 26% (using 1940 census data).

AncestryDNA's estimates of Irish ancestry for much of the rest of the country are likely inflated, however. AncestryDNA's "Irish" cluster spills over into Scotland and Wales, and to a lesser extent even into England and France. While (in an analysis shown in the AncestryDNA white paper) 95% of Irish are placed into the "Irish" cluster, only something like 60% of British are placed into the "Great Britain" cluster (with most of the rest presumably being placed into either the "Irish" or "Europe West" clusters). AncestryDNA's estimates rely on ADMIXTURE, an allele frequency-based approach, whereas I think very large data sets and an approach that makes use of haplotype information will be needed to clearly dissect recent ancestry within Northwestern Europe.

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "admixture, America, DNA, genealogy, pers..."
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Saturday, 05 Apr 2014 19:18
More complete AncestryDNA estimates of genetic ancestry by state (interactive maps at link):
Using AncestryDNA results from over a quarter million people, the AncestryDNA science team set out to perform a “genetic census” of the United States. [. . .]

Solely using ethnicity estimated by DNA, these maps reveal spatial patterns that are telling of the ancestral origins of present day Americans: where they came from and where they eventually settled. [. . .]

SCANDINAVIAN ETHNICITY

For example, let’s look at the Scandinavian map. Scandinavian immigrants – from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark – tended to settle in the upper Midwest where geography, culture, and local economics felt familiar to life in the old country.

On the map, these are the greenest regions: the states with the highest amounts of Scandinavian ancestry. In other words, DNA also suggests localized migration of individuals of Scandinavian origin to North Dakota, Minnesota, and neighboring states, with little migration to other U.S. regions. History agrees with genetics!

IRISH ETHNICITY

Look at the Irish ancestry map as another example. The highest statewide averages are concentrated in Massachusetts and other states in the Northeastern U.S. – where many Irish immigrants, forced to leave their homes and lands, settled in the 19th century. Growing numbers of Irish that arrived after the 1820s were often poor and common laborers, and took jobs in the construction of buildings, canals, roads, and railways in cities in the eastern United States.

Many of these cities still show the highest average amounts of Irish ethnicity in the U.S. today! DNA affirms that many descendants of Irish immigrants still live where their ancestors initially settled – in the Northeast.

GREAT BRITAIN AND WESTERN EUROPE ETHNICITY

If you look at the maps for Great Britain and Europe West, you see that other ancestries are more widespread across the whole country. Leading up to the Boston Tea Party and the Declaration of Independence in 1776, large numbers of Europeans arrived in what is now the U.S., in some cases to escape religious persecution. While there were subsequently many waves of immigration, individuals primarily from Western Europe and Great Britain were our first Americans.

That we see British ancestry in many people of the U.S. may be evidence of the long history of individuals from Great Britain migrating to the United States, and far and wide across those states.

As I mentioned, the "Irish" estimates are likely inflated in much of the country, with Scotch-Irish, Scottish, and Welsh probably contributing a considerable part of the "Irish" component outside of the Northeast.
Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "admixture, America, DNA, ethnicity, gene..."
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Monday, 31 Mar 2014 19:36
Some abstracts and videos from the 2013 Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology.

Genetic genealogy comes of age: advances in the use of deep-rooted pedigrees in human evolutionary research (video)

Author(s): Larmuseau, MHD, Van Geystelen, A, Decorte, R

Summary:

Research on the recent human evolution will benefit from the implementation of extended genetic genealogical data. The approach to combine deep-rooted pedigrees with genetic information advances the understanding of changes in the human population genetic structure during the last centuries. This recent advance is mainly based on the extensive growth of whole genome sequencing data and available genealogical data of high quality. Moreover, according to the latest genetic genealogical research the historical non-paternity rate in Western Europe is estimated around 1% per generation within the last four centuries, which means that the expected relationship between the legal genealogy and the genetics of DNA donors exists. Therefore, genetic genealogical data will help with three research aims of human evolutionary studies: (I) detecting signals of (past) population stratification and interpreting the population structure in a more objective manner, (II) obtaining the time scale and impact of particular detected gene flow events more accurately and (III) determining temporal genetic differentiation within a population by combining in-depth pedigree data with haploid markers. Each of these research aims will be discussed with examples of the human population in Flanders (Western Europe). At the end, we will discuss the advantages and pitfalls of using genetic genealogy within studies on human evolutionary genomics.

Detection of polygenic selection at different evolutionary levels (video)

Author(s): Excoffier L, Daub J

Summary:

Most approaches aiming at finding genes involved in adaptive events have focused on the detection of outlier loci, which resulted in the discovery of individually ´significant´ genes with strong effects. However, a collection of small effect mutations could have a large effect on a given biological pathway that includes many genes, and such a polygenic mode of adaptation has not been systematically investigated in humans or other mammals. We therefore propose to evidence polygenic selection by detecting signals of adaptation at the pathway or gene set level instead of analyzing single independent genes. Using a gene-set enrichment test, we identify genome-wide signals of recent adaptation among human populations as well as more ancient signals of adaptation in the human lineage and in primates.

A genome-wide scan for relaxation of constraints in the human lineage affecting specific functional processes (video)

Author(s): Somel, M, Wilson-Sayres, M, Jordan, G, Huerta-Sanchez, E, Fumagalli, M, Ferrer-Admetlla, A, Nielsen, R

Summary:

Changes in the subsistence mode of a species can lead to adaptive evolution of new functions, while it can also cause relaxed negative selection in previously essential functions. While positive selection in humans has been intensely studied, functional processes subject to relaxed constraints in the human lineage remain largely unknown. Here we present a framework for detecting relaxation of selective constraints that affect a particular functional process specifically in one taxon. Jointly using human and chimpanzee population genomic data with mammalian comparative genomic data, we identify olfactory receptors and proteasome subunits as candidates of relaxed constraints in humans: both gene sets contain high frequency non-synonymous mutations in humans while having conserved amino-acid sequences across other mammals. We further discuss the possible underlying causes of this signal.

Selection on penis size, body shape and height in humans: a simple multivariate method to quantify female preferences based on male physical attractiveness (video)

Author(s): Mautz, BS, Jennions, MD, Peters, RA, Wong, BBM

Summary:

Compelling evidence from many animal taxa indicates that male genitalia are often under post-copulatory sexual selection for characteristics that increase a male’s relative fertilization success under sperm competition. There could, however, also be direct pre-copulatory female mate choice based on male genital traits. Before clothing, the non-retractable human penis would have been conspicuous to potential mates. This, in combination with claims that humans have a large penis for their body size compared to other primates, has generated suggestions that human penis size partly evolved due to female choice. We presented women with digitally projected fully life-size, computer-generated animations of male figures to quantify the (interactive) effects of penis size, body shape and height on female assessment of male sexual attractiveness. We generated 343 male figures that each had one of seven possible values for each of the three test traits (7x7x7 = 343). All seven test values per trait were within two standard deviations of the mean based on a representative sample of males. We calculate response (fitness) surfaces based on the average attractiveness rank each of the 343 male figure received. We also calculated individual response surfaces for 105 women (each women viewed 53 figures). Both methods yielded almost identical results. We discuss our finding in the context of previous studies that have taken a univariate approach to quantify female preferences. We discuss the hypothesis that pre-copulatory sexual selection might play a role in the evolution of genital traits.

Quantitative genetic variation, selection and secular change of skull shape in humans

Author(s): Klingenberg, C, Martínez-Abadías, N, Esparza, M, Sjøvold, T, Hernández, M

Summary:

The combined use of geometric morphometrics and quantitative genetics provides a set of powerful tools for obtaining quantitative information that is crucial for many important questions concerning the evolution of shape. In particular, the demographic information that is available for human populations make humans a unique study system for studying the mechanisms of evolutionary change in morphological traits. We investigate skull shape in the population of Hallstatt (Austria), where a collection of human skulls with associated records offer a unique opportunity for such studies. We use an individual-based statistical model to estimate the genetic covariance matrix, and characterize selection using fitness estimates from demographic data. We find clear evidence for directional selection, but not for nonlinear selection (stabilizing or disruptive selection). The predicted response to this selection, computed with genetic parameters from the population, does not match the estimate of secular change over the 150-year range of the data. We discuss possible reasons for the mismatch.

What is "species recognition"?

Author(s): Mendelson, T

Summary:

The concept of “species recognition” is widely used in the study of animal communication, typically referring to the tendency of organisms to distinguish members of their own species from heterospecifics. Yet, it is difficult to pinpoint a consensus definition of the concept, and close inspection reveals a host of underlying assumptions. First, I discuss definitions and underlying assumptions of species recognition as used in the literature and identify where these assumptions are either untested or logically flawed. I then discuss the implications of species recognition for the question of whether non-human animals have species concepts and articulate directions for research into the cognitive architecture of species boundaries in nature.

From sexual communication to species recognition: examples from the house mouse

Author(s): Ganem, G

Summary:

Sexual communication involves transfer of information between potential mates on their identity, quality, compatibility and history. Both endogenous and exogenous factors are expected to shape the evolution of the complex systems made of signals, receptors and preferences. Further, variation in the latter factors could result in divergence between the sexes, populations and species. How potential mates make sense of the diverse information available for mate choice remains an unresolved question. My research addresses this question in rodent species using the olfactory chemosensory channel to communicate. For example, several pheromones involved in social and sexual communication have been described in the house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus). These chemical cues are mostly present in the mouse urine and the mouse marks its territory by depositing urine drops. Moreover, mice are both excellent noses and carry odor signatures that act as fingerprints. Still, despite of this remarkable individual variability population and species differences exist. The house mouse is involved in chromosomal diversification in parts of its range and share a hybrid zone with another subspecies (M. m. musculus) along a north south axis crossing Europe from Scandinavia to the Black sea. Using these different evolutionary and geographical settings, research in my laboratory has addressed the mechanisms involved in mate recognition system divergence. Referring to examples from my research I shall illustrate how genetic drift, local adaptation sexual selection and reproductive interference shape the house mouse mate recognition system and could facilitate speciation.

A quantitative genetics approach to equilibrium assessment and equilibrium fitness estimation; an application to study the polymorphism of the human ACP1 in Europe (video)

Author(s): Álvarez-Castro, JM

Summary:

Studies of equilibrium and stability under selection are liable to further development. With multiple alleles, a tiny proportion of possible genotype frequencies are possible at polymorphic equilibria. I present a quantitative genetics (QG) method for checking whether a set of genotype frequencies are equilibrium frequencies that also provides estimates of the fitnesses of all genotypes. This method is here applied to a one-locus multiallelic system, but applications to multiple-locus systems with epistasis are also possible. Method Classical QG studies focused on directional selection on the phenotype. Considering instead that the trait is fitness enables tracking genotypic frequencies under other selection regimes. Thus, if the additive variance may be minimized to zero for a set of observed frequencies, then these are putative equilibrium frequencies and the corresponding fitnesses are estimates of the equilibrium fitnesses. Two exclusive properties of NOIA are crucial for performing such analysis: it generalizes previous models and it provides explicit expressions of variance components (Álvarez-Castro and Carlborg 2007, Álvarez-Castro and Yang 2011). The human ACP1 polymorphism in Europe Three alleles of ACP1 (A, B, C) coexist in human European populations and C was claimed to be deleterious using biallelic methods. The multiallelic method proposed here shows instead that the observed genotypic frequencies are consistent with a polymorphic equilibrium with fitnesses in accordance with physiological observations (AA affected by fetal macrosomia). NOIA reveals a fast rise of additive variance for slight fitness increases of AA (not published). This may actually be leading to fixation of A in European populations since fetal macrosomia--with the aid of pregnancy monitoring and reasonably safe caesarean sections--entails nowadays less of a problem than it did some decades ago. ALVAREZ-CASTRO & CARLBORG 2007 Genetics 176 ALVAREZ-CASTRO & YANG 2011 Genetica 139

Comparing phenotypic, quantitative genetic, and genomic approaches to measuring tradeoffs in a contemporary human population

Author(s): Stearns SC

Summary:

In women born before 1940 in Framingham, Massachusetts, there was a significant negative correlation between number of children ever born and lifespan. Each additional child was associated with a reduction of about one year of life. Analysis of the 1500+ pedigrees containing 15,000+ people with an animal model that partially controlled for cultural and environmental effects yielded a large, significant, negative genetic correlation between children ever born and lifespan. A genome wide association study that looked for genes that alter the slope of the relationship between those two traits discovered several genes, some of which have previously been identified as involved in cancer. One, EOMES, has the sort of function one would expect of a gene that influences a tradeoff: its product affects many different processes. Statistical models with and without education as a covariate yielded results consistent with the idea that education is a cultural mimic of antagonistic pleiotropy: increases in level of education are associated with fewer children and longer life.

How has the genetic architecture of key life history traits responded to the demographic transition in a human population?

Author(s): Bolund, E, Lummaa, V

Summary:

A central issue in evolutionary biology concerns the long-term reliability of predictions of evolutionary change. Theory predicts that the genetic architecture of life history traits (summarised by the additive genetic variance-covariance matrix, G) will change over time and thus affect how traits respond to selection. However, studies have found support both for fast changes as well as for a great consistency in G over time. It thus remains unclear how rapidly and in what manner G itself changes in response to changes in selection pressures or environment.

The demographic transition to low mortality and fertility rates in many recent human populations involves a drastic environmental change, but its consequences for the evolutionary potential of traits have rarely been addressed. We use genealogical data from 8 parishes in Finland, from natural high (5-6 offspring) to recent low (< 2 offspring) fertility over 350 years to address this question at the genetic level. We study four key life history traits; age at first and last reproduction, number of offspring and longevity, all of which show significant phenotypic changes during the time period. We use the animal model quantitative genetic approach to study whether and how the genetic architecture underlying these traits has also changed, by comparing the full G matrix in the periods before and after the demographic transition.

First, we establish significant additive genetic variance and heritability for all traits during both time periods. Second, we present the genetic covariances and correlations between all four traits during both periods. Third, we compare the overall G matrix of the two periods to elucidate if and how G has changed during the demographic transition. The results provide a novel insight in how traits can respond to selection in contemporary human populations and whether the potential for such responses might have changed along with the recent demographic and societal changes.

Divergent selection on, but no genetic conflict over, female and male timing and rate of reproduction in a human population

Author(s): Bolund E, Bouwhuis S, Pettay J, Lummaa V

Summary:

The sexes often have different phenotypic optima for important life-history traits and because they share much of their genome, this can lead to a conflict over trait expression. In mammals, the obligate costs of reproduction are higher for females, making reproductive timing and rate especially liable to conflict between the sexes. While studies from wild vertebrate populations show support for such sexual conflict, it remains unexplored in humans. We used a pedigreed human population from pre-industrial Finland to estimate sexual conflict over age at first and last reproduction, reproductive lifespan and reproductive rate. We found that the phenotypic selection gradients differed between the sexes. For age at first and last reproduction and reproductive lifespan, the relationships with fitness (number of grandchildren) tended to be nonlinear in women, suggesting an intermediate optimum value, while they were linear in men. Both sexes showed a linear decrease in fitness with increasing reproductive rate. We next established significant heritabilities in both sexes for all traits. All traits, except reproductive rate, showed strongly positive intersexual genetic correlations and were strongly genetically correlated with fitness in both sexes. Moreover, the genetic correlations with fitness were almost identical in men and women. For reproductive rate, the intersexual correlation and the correlation with fitness were weaker but again similar between the sexes. These findings illustrate that apparent sexual conflict at the phenotypic level is not necessarily indicative of an underlying genetic conflict and further emphasize the need for incorporating a genetic perspective into studies of human life-history evolution.

Genetic constraints underlying human reproductive timing in a pre-modern Swiss village (pdf)

Author(s): Bürkli, A, Postma, E

Summary:

The trade-off between reproductive investment in early versus late life is central to life-history theory. Despite abundant empirical evidence in support of different versions of this trade-off, the specific trade-off between age at first reproduction (AFR) and age at last reproduction (ALR) has received little attention, especially in long-lived species with a pronounced reproductive senescence such as humans. Using genealogical data for a 19th-century Swiss village, we (i) quantify natural selection on reproductive timing, (ii) estimate additive genetic (co)variances, and (iii) use these to predict evolutionary responses. Selection gradients were computed using multiple linear regressions, and the additive genetic variance-covariance matrix was estimated using a restricted maximum-likelihood animal model. We found strong selection for both an early AFR and a late ALR, which resulted from selection for an earlier and longer reproductive period (RP, i.e. ALR-AFR). Furthermore, postponing AFR shortened RP in both sexes, but twice as much in women. Finally, AFR and ALR were strongly and positively genetically correlated, which led to a considerable reduction in the predicted responses to selection, or even rendered them maladaptive. These results provide evidence for strong genetic constraints underlying reproductive timing in humans, which may have contributed to the evolution of menopause.

What is advantageous for the germline may be bad for the soma; the impact of germline selection on the mutational load in humans

Author(s): Arnheim, N, Calabrese, P

Summary:

Some new germline mutations that arise in the testis may confer a selective advantage to the mutated germ cell relative to non-mutated cells. Theoretically, if a new mutation provided a germline selective advantage it could increase the frequency at which the mutated allele was introduced into the population by orders of magnitude even though, much to the species detriment, it reduced the fitness of the individuals that inherited it. We have shown examples of positive germline selection for three human disease mutations that arise sporadically each generation at frequencies ranging from 1/2,000 to 1/70,000 births. These sporadic disease cases occur at rates 100-1,000 times greater than would be expected based on what we know about genome average mutation rates. Using a testis dissection/mutation detection approach along with mathematical modeling we have shown that the high frequency of these de novo disease mutations cannot be explained by hyper-mutation at the disease-causing sites. Instead, our data are consistent with the idea that the newly mutated germline stem cells have a proliferative advantage over non-mutated stem cells resulting in germline mosaicism. Plausible molecular mechanisms can explain the selective advantage for each of the three disease mutations. Others previously suggested that alleles conferring a selective advantage in the germline may be disadvantageous in the adult and might lead to “mitotic drive” systems that increase the mutational load of a population. The three disease mutations we examined may be realizations of this idea.

Experimental studies of human social learning strategies: exploring sex differences

Author(s): Cross, C, Brown, G, Morgan, T, Laland, K

Summary:

Objectives Culture is an important driver of recent biological evolution in humans. The mechanisms by which information is transmitted between individuals can be studied at the population level – by cultural evolutionists, and at the individual level – by social psychologists. We combined methods from these two approaches to investigate how sex differences in confidence might lead to sex differences in the use of a copy-when-uncertain social learning strategy. Methods Participants (Study 1: N=97; Study 2: N=89) completed a series of two-alternative forced-choice puzzles and reported their confidence in each answer. They then saw the decisions of some previous participants before being asked again for their answer. Social information use was inferred when participants switched their answer to match that of the majority. We modelled the probability of social information use with participant sex, confidence in initial decision, and accuracy of initial decision as predictors. Results Across both studies, confidence had a large effect on social information use, indicative of a copy-when-uncertain strategy. Accuracy predicted confidence, indicating that this strategy is adaptive. Confidence also differed by sex: women reported lower confidence (independent of any small sex differences in accuracy), which in turn increased their probability of using social information. Conclusions Although both sexes appear to use a ‘copy-when-uncertain’ strategy, women are more likely to feel uncertain. This means that a strategy observed to be used in a population (e.g. copy-when-uncertain) can vary according to individual differences in psychological traits. Further integration of these two levels of explanation is therefore needed.

Fitness meets fitness: taking an evolutionary approach to physical fitness in humans (pdf)

Author(s): Postma, E

Summary:

Evolutionary biologists are usually the first to emphasize that Darwinian fitness has little in common with the meaning that is commonly attached to fitness by the general public, that is physical fitness. However, recent studies in humans and non-human animals are suggestive of an important role for physical fitness in shaping variation in Darwinian fitness via natural and sexual selection, both in the past and in the present. Indeed, it has been argued that it is selection on physical performance that has made us who we are today. To gain a better understanding of variation in (physical) fitness, I use concepts and methods from evolutionary biology and life-history theory and apply these to data on human running performance. Specifically, using a large (longitudinal and cross-sectional) data set for running performance by both men and women over a wide range of distances, I test for sex differences, the effects of ageing and training, and for trade-offs between long- versus short-distance and generalists versus specialists. I will use these findings to infer the selective pressures acting on physical fitness in humans, and to argue that Darwinian and physical fitness may have more in common with each other than is often assumed.

The demographic transition influences variance in fitness and selection on height and BMI in rural Gambia

Author(s): Courtiol, A

Summary:

Recent human history is marked by demographic transitions characterized by declines in mortality and fertility. By influencing the variance in those fitness components, demographic transitions can affect selection on other traits. Parallel to changes in selection triggered by demography per se, relationships between fitness and anthropometric traits are also expected to change due to modification of the environment. Here we explore for the first time these two main evolutionary consequences of demographic transitions using a unique data set containing survival, fertility, and anthropometric data for thousands of women in rural Gambia from 1956–2010. We show how the demographic transition influenced directional selection on height and body mass index (BMI). We observed a change in selection for both traits mediated by variation in fertility: selection initially favored short females with high BMI values but shifted across the demographic transition to favor tall females with low BMI values. We demonstrate that these differences resulted both from changes in fitness variance that shape the strength of selection and from shifts in selective pressures triggered by environmental changes. These results suggest that demographic and environmental trends encountered by current human populations worldwide are likely to modify, but not stop, natural selection in humans.

A comparison between heritabilities of life history and morphological traits in human populations (pdf)

Author(s): Esparza, M, Martínez-Abadías, N, Sjovold, T, González-José, R, Hernández, M

Summary:

According to Fisher's fundamental theorem of natural selection, the amount of additive genetic variance in a trait, and hence its heritability, should decrease as the strength of selection on this trait increases. Supporting this idea, many authors have reported lower heritability values in life history traits than in morphological and physiological traits for different species. But there are no studies comparing the evolvability of different types of traits in human populations. The pedigree collection of decorated skulls from the historical population of Hallstatt (Austria) offers an exceptional opportunity to compare the heritabilities of life history and morphological traits in humans. In this study we first used church records to reconstruct the pedigrees and to obtain the values of individual life history traits, such as fertility, age at first and at last child, mean interbirth interval, adult lifespan and lifetime reproductive success). Second, we measured a sample of 353 complete adult skulls falling into the pedigrees using a 3D Microscribe digitizer. A set of 50 landmarks were measured on each skull and from the 3D landmarks coordinates we estimated several size and shape variables reflecting the complex and modular structure of the human skull. We estimated the heritabilities of the life-history and morphological traits using a Restricted Maximum Likelihood method and statistically compared the resulting heritability values. On average, our results show lower heritabilities for life history traits than for morphological ones, confirming the initial hypothesis.

AgeGuess crowdsourcing human aging research (pdf)

Author(s): Steiner, U, Misevic, D

Summary:

Human lifespan increases by 2.5 years every decade. This unprecedented change in life histories poses fundamental challenges for evolutionary theories. Some evidence indicates that this change is due to a delay in aging rather than a change in the rate of aging. AgeGuess is a citizen science project and online game that investigates the differences between perceived age (how old you look to other people) and chronological age (how old you actually are) and their potential power as an aging biomarker. Is the increased life expectancy reflected in how old one looks, i.e. are the new 60’s the old 50’s? Are people who look older than they are more likely to die early? Does the rate of looking older differ among individuals or some individuals just looking older all their lives, i.e. does the difference between estimated and real age change over time? Is the difference between perceived and real age heritable? Are there periods in life when one ages faster? The project aims at such questions by a simple on-line game in which you can post your photos, have other people guess your age, as well as guess the age of other users. Curious? Please visit AgeGuess.org

Cooperation and conflict in humans in traditional large joint families

Author(s): Pettay, JE, Lahdenperä, M, Lummaa, V

Summary:

Group living can be associated with cooperation and even cooperative breeding whereby non-reproductive individuals help to raise offspring that are not their own. However, it can also lead to evolutionary conflict, which is a less studied phenomenon. Humans are considered to be cooperative breeders, since mothers commonly gain help in raising offspring from other (usually related) group members, such as grandmothers and siblings. Nevertheless, simultaneous breeding in the same household among reproductive-aged females, such as mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, has also been linked with reduced success. The importance of cooperation and conflict is likely to vary according to ecology and social structure of populations, leading to differential selection pressures on dispersal patterns. We used life-history data on humans collected from church book records from 19th century Eastern Finland where joint-families were traditionally common. In joint families several adult offspring, usually sons, stayed in their natal farm with their families. This creates a situation where reproductive-aged women are not related to other women in the family, leading to possible conflict over resources and lowered fitness, but cooperation between women is also possible. We analyse mother’s fecundity and survival of her offspring in relation to the presence and reproductive history of other reproductive-aged women in the family by event history analysis, whist controlling for potential confounders such as presence of other family members and temporal variation in mortality and fertility rates. Preliminary analysis suggest that living in larger joint families was beneficial for women’s fitness, both in terms of fecundity and offspring survival, compared to smaller nuclear families. These results suggest that in this population cooperation between family members was more important than conflict, potentially favouring reduced dispersal among adult siblings

Reproduction and lifespan: only age at last reproduction matters

Author(s): Nenko, I, Jasienska, G

Summary:

Reproduction is costly for mothers due to energetic and physiological requirements during pregnancy, lactation and childcare. Fathers are usually neglected by the studies since they do not pay direct costs of reproduction. However, including fathers in analysis is crucial, since it could suggests explanations about the mechanisms responsible for the relationships observed for mothers. Our study investigated how reproductive history is related to parental lifespan. We present results from historical Polish population belonging to the area of Mogielica Human Ecology Study Site. Demographic data for marriages that occurred from the year 1782 to 1882, collected from parish records were used. Relationship between number of children born, age at first reproduction and last reproduction, mean interbirth interval and parental longevity was analyzed controlling for year of birth, spouse’s longevity and first birth interval (as an indicator of energetic status at the beginning of reproduction for women). Moreover, sex of the last child was included in the model to control for maternal condition at the end of reproduction (since sons are more costly than daughters). In separate models, number of children that survived to adulthood was analyzed. Both maternal and paternal lifespans were affected only by the age at last reproduction. The later the last child was born the longer lives parents had (mothers: HR=0.96; CI=0.93-0.99 and fathers: HR=0.95; CI=0.92-0.98). Similar relationships were found when number of children who survived to adulthood was analyzed (mothers: HR=0.96; CI=0.94-0.98 and fathers: HR=0.95; CI=0.93-0.97). The results suggest that in studied population there are no trade-offs between costs of reproduction and lifespan. Only the age at last reproduction is significant predictor of length of life. However, the fact that the same relationship is observed for fathers suggests importance of social rather than biological factors.

Human evolutionary demography: illustrated with reference to the importance of kin for human reproductive success

Author(s): Sear, R

Summary:

Evolutionary demographers working on our own species are fortunate: data on humans abounds, both from the real world (including large-scale national datasets collected by demographers and economists and data on small-scale traditional societies collected by demographers), and from the lab (psychological and medical). We also have access to the substantial amount of research done in the social and medical sciences on how to collect, analyse and think about such data. In this talk I will summarise the benefits of the cross-disciplinary approach of human evolutionary demography, which combines data, methods and insights from the social sciences with the theoretical framework of evolutionary biology. I will do this with particular reference to my research on kin influences on demographic outcomes, including child survival and fertility rates. As a social species, interactions with other individuals are important for human fitness. The ‘cooperative breeding’ and ‘pooled energy budget’ models of human social organisation suggest, in fact, that such interactions are essential for human reproductive success. Here I will present results from a comparative project which is investigating the empirical evidence that kin do matter for women’s fitness across a wide range of human populations, including: the analysis of nationally representative datasets from both high and low income countries; a comparative analysis of datasets from traditional, subsistence societies contributed by anthropologists; and psychological experiments. This evidence demonstrates that the presence of kin is often correlated with higher reproductive success, but also that interactions between kin are not always necessarily cooperative. There is also some evidence for local resource competition between kin, and conflicts of interest between affinal kin (those related by marriage).

Genetic trade-offs and the evolution of human life-histories

Author(s): Hayward, AD, Lummaa, V

Summary:

Understanding life-history trade-offs is fundamental to explaining the diversity of life-history strategies in nature, and determining the genetic basis of trade-offs can identify how evolutionary constraint maintains life-history variation. Humans have evolved an unusual life-history compared to other primates, characterized by the menopause and long female post-reproductive lifespan (PRL). These have been hypothesized to evolve to enable (i) reduced reproduction when the costs of reproducing exceed the benefits, and (ii) enhanced grandchild survival. Previous tests of these hypotheses have examined phenotypic correlations between female reproductive rate and (i) PRL and (ii) offspring survival. However, environmental effects can mask genetic associations, and the direction and magnitude of these genetic correlations must be examined to determine the evolutionary potential of such traits. Using genealogical data from preindustrial Finnish church records for eight populations, we applied a multivariate quantitative genetic framework to examine the genetic basis of female reproductive rate, measured by inter-birth interval (IBI). We examined how additive genetic effects on IBI changed with age, and how age-specific genetic effects varied across environmental conditions. We determined the genetic trade-offs between IBI and both PRL and offspring survival, and how these trade-offs varied across ages and environments. Pilot analyses on four populations show a genetic basis to all traits, and suggest that genetic trade-offs between IBI and the other traits increased with age in poor environmental conditions, but were weak and age-independent in good conditions. IBI and PRL were positively related to lifetime fitness, suggesting that genetic trade-offs act as an evolutionary constraint. Our results will reveal new insight into human life-history evolution and generally highlight the fact that genetic correlations between traits may be age- and environment-dependent.

Social role specialisation promotes cooperation (video)

Author(s): Harrison, F, Székely, T, Liker, A, Barta, Z

Summary:

Understanding the evolution of cooperation is crucial for understanding the evolution of breeding systems. An assumption implicit in almost all cooperation research is that cooperative behaviour in one specific ecological task evolves independently of other such tasks; however, this is often unlikely to be true. We use an individual-based simulation to relax this assumption, using biparental care as a model of cooperative behaviour. We show that synergistic costs of investing in two distinct care tasks, or a negligible sex-based asymmetry in their costs, select for sex-based task specialisation and stabilise cooperation between parents. Cooperation persists in spite of intense sexual selection and sex-biased mortality. Remarkably, with increased levels of cooperation, population size is also increased. We therefore show that ignoring the multivariate tasks animals face in nature leads to restrictive predictions of the ecological and demographic conditions under which biparental care in particular, and cooperation in general, are maintained.

Evolutionary history of the 17q21 human polymorphic inversion

Author(s): Alves, JMF, Lopes, A, Heutink, P, Chikhi, L, Amorim, A

Summary:

With the aid of novel and powerful molecular biology techniques the study of the structural plasticity of the genome has gained momentum, and one particular subtype of chromosomal rearrangement – inversions – was recently found to be far more common than predicted from classical cytogenetics. Moreover, large inversions have been identified at high frequency in some human populations.

One particularly large inversion (900 kb) described in humans and several Great Apes, namely 17q21, has been shown to exhibit ‘frozen’ haplotypes (H1 and H2) which were originally identified by specific mutations and by their opposite orientations. The fact that they accumulate mutations independently is not necessarily surprising since recombination is expected to be limited between inverted regions. However, three surprising results were also found (i) age estimates of the inverted-associated haplotype (H2) are in the order of magnitude of millions of years, and (ii) the frequency of the inverted haplotypes vary between 5 and 35% in Europe only, (iii) cases were found in which the inversion status was in contradiction with the molecular haplotype, i.e. some H2 haplotypes (as defined by specific mutations) were in the same orientation as H1.

These results suggest that (i) the inversion might be recurrent despite its size, or (ii) the polymorphism was kept during a large evolutionary timescale and resisted various speciation processes since it is observed in other Apes.

In order to clarify the complex history of 17q21 human polymorphic inversion we are merging NGS data from 14 populations with cytogenetic (e.g. Fluorescent in situ hybridization) and molecular techniques. Furthermore, we will apply population genetics approaches to compare different evolutionary models.

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "anthropometry, attractiveness, DNA, evol..."
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014 01:34
Estimating the Sex-Specific Effects of Genes on Facial Attractiveness and Sexual Dimorphism (pdf)
Human facial attractiveness and facial sexual dimorphism (masculinity–femininity) are important facets of mate choice and are hypothesized to honestly advertise genetic quality. However, it is unclear whether genes influencing facial attractiveness and masculinity–femininity have similar, opposing, or independent effects across sex, and the heritability of these phenotypes is poorly characterized. To investigate these issues, we assessed facial attractiveness and facial masculinity–femininity in the largest genetically informative sample (n = 1,580 same- and opposite-sex twin pairs and siblings) to assess these questions to date. The heritability was ~0.50–0.70 for attractiveness and ~0.40–0.50 for facial masculinity–femininity, indicating that, despite ostensible selection on genes influencing these traits, substantial genetic variation persists in both. Importantly, we found evidence for intralocus sexual conflict, whereby alleles that increase masculinity in males have the same effect in females. Additionally, genetic influences on attractiveness were shared across the sexes, suggesting that attractive fathers tend to have attractive daughters and attractive mothers tend to have attractive sons.
Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "attractiveness, DNA"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Saturday, 22 Feb 2014 16:08
Some videos from a "Computation-Intensive Probabilistic and Statistical Methods for Large-Scale Population Genomics" workshop that happened over the past few days.

The most broadly accessible talk is probably that of Nick Eriksson from 23andme (Crowd-sourcing Genetic Discovery).

Also potentially of interest:

Calculation of Joint Allelic Spectra
Nick Patterson, Broad Institute

Genetic Variation in Gene Regulation
Jonathan Pritchard, Stanford University

Mutation Rates and Generation Times in Humans
Molly Przeworski, Columbia University

Coalescent Approaches to Selective Sweeps
Graham Coop, UC Davis

Natural Selection in a Spatial Continuum
Alison Etheridge, University of Oxford

Any Way You Want It: Applications of Whole Genome Capture to Ancient DNA, Metagenomics, and Orthogonal Validation
Carlos Bustamante, Stanford University

Population Genetics of the Neanderthal Genome Project
Montgomery Slatkin, UC Berkeley

Analysis of Haplotype Sharing and Recent Demographic History with Examples from the Netherlands
Itsik Pe'er, Columbia University

Probabilistic Models for Spatial Geographic Localization
Eran Halperin, Tel Aviv University

Quantifying the Extent of Geographic Signature in the Human Genome
Lior Pachter, UC Berkeley

Robust Demographic Inference from Genomic and SNP Data
Laurent Excoffier, University of Bern

A Population Reference Graph for Human Genetic Variation [video supposed to be available next week]
Gil McVean, University of Oxford

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "admixture, DNA, personal genomics, video"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Tuesday, 08 Oct 2013 03:19
Interesting-looking poster title:
Michael Sheehan Morphological and population genomic evidence of selection for individual identity signaling in human faces

There's no abstract, but one area where I suspect selection of this sort may turn out to be relevant (at least more relevant than Peter Frost-style sexual selection) is in explaining European hair and eye color variation.

"Traits signaling identity should be highly variable, often display polymodal distributions, not be condition dependent (i.e., be cheap to produce and/or maintain), not be associated with fitness differences, exhibit independent assortment of component characters, and often occur as fixed phenotypes with a high degree of genetic determination."

"Is human facial distinctiveness an adaptive signal of individual identity? From a sociobiological perspective, humans seem to have the ‘perfect storm’ of selection pressures that might favor recognizability. We are extremely social, interacting repeatedly with large numbers of individuals, each with varying roles in our lives. We are extremely cooperative, and we make complex decisions about whether and how much to cooperate based on kinship, friendship and social reputation [39,78]."

Signaling Individual Identity versus Quality: A Model and Case Studies with Ruffs, Queleas, and House Finches (pdf)

We develop an evolutionary model that predicts that characters selected to signal individual identity will have properties differing from those expected for indicator signals of quality. Traits signaling identity should be highly variable, often display polymodal distributions, not be condition dependent (i.e., be cheap to produce and/or maintain), not be associated with fitness differences, exhibit independent assortment of component characters, and often occur as fixed phenotypes with a high degree of genetic determination. We illustrate the existence of traits with precisely these attributes in the ornamental, conspicuously variable, and sexually dimorphic breeding plumages of ruff sandpipers Philomachus pugnax and red-billed que- leas Quelea quelea. Although ruffs lek and queleas are monogamous, both species breed in high-density aggregations with high rates of social interactions (e.g., aggression and territory defense). Under these socioecological conditions, individual recognition based on vi- sual cues may be unusually important. In contrast to these species, we also review plumage characteristics in house finches Carpodacus mexicanus, a nonterritorial, dispersed-breeding species in which plumage ornamentation is thought to signal quality. In keeping with expectations for quality signals, house finch plumage is relatively less variable, unimodally distributed, condition dependent, correlated with fitness measures, has positively correlated component charac- ters, and is a plastic, environmentally determined trait. We briefly discuss signals of identity in other animals. [. . .]

Variance in human facial appearance provides another interesting polymorphism that may have been shaped by selection for recognizability. The diversity in human faces offers a rich source of information that is regularly used for identifying individuals. Identity signals in our species could be adaptive for a variety of reasons, such as large group sizes (most human groups include 150 people or more; Ridley 1998) coupled with the importance of status hierarchies, reputations, and widespread delayed reciprocal altruism. If human facial characteristics are identity sig- nals, then they should be composed of genetically deter- mined subcomponents that assort independently and dis- play complex distributions with high variance.

Individual recognition: it is good to be different (pdf)

Individual recognition (IR) behavior has been widely studied, uncovering spectacular recognition abilities across a range of taxa and modalities. Most studies of IR focus on the recognizer (receiver). These studies typi- cally explore whether a species is capable of IR, the cues that are used for recognition and the specializations that receivers use to facilitate recognition. However, rela- tively little research has explored the other half of the communication equation: the individual being recog- nized (signaler). Provided there is a benefit to being accurately identified, signalers are expected to actively broadcast their identity with distinctive cues. Consider- ing the prevalence of IR, there are probably widespread benefits associated with distinctiveness. As a result, selection for traits that reveal individual identity might represent an important and underappreciated selective force contributing to the evolution and maintenance of genetic polymorphisms.

Individual recognition as communication

Recognition is required for almost all social behavior. Recognition ranges across a wide spectrum, including self, kin, mate, gender, neighbor, rival, friend, species, predator and prey [1]. Individual recognition (IR) refers to a subset of recognition that occurs when one organism identifies another according to its individually distinctive character- istics [2]. Although IR is the most precise form of recog- nition, it is always associated with some other form of recognition. Depending on the context in which an indi- vidual’s identity is learned, IR can be used to discriminate a mate, offspring, sibling, friend or rival. During IR, the signaler is recognized by unique recognition cues, and the receiver learns the cues and uses them to identify the signaler during future interactions. [. . .]

Receiver specialization for recognition

When the ability to recognize individuals is strongly favored by selection, receivers might evolve specializations that help them identify individuals more easily. For example, humans (Homo sapiens) [58,59], sheep [60] and macaques (Macaca mulatta) [61] have neural specialization for facial IR. Faces are processed in a specific area of the brain and the brain treats faces differently from other objects. A striking con- sequence of human neural specialization for face recognition is that some humans experience a condition called ‘face blindness’ during which they cannot recognize individual faces but can still recognize objects [58]. Neural specializ- ations for IR are probably not universal, but they might evolve when there is strong selection for quick and easy identification of many individuals. [. . .]

Identity signaling in humans

Our faces provide powerful images that are full of multiple messages. Our expressions provide information about cur- rent motivational state. Our male-like or female-like facial proportions provide information about gender and hor- mone-exposure [75,76]. High symmetry and youthfulness signal characteristics associated with attractiveness [77]. In addition, there are countless subtle differences that collectively contribute to our overall distinctiveness (Figure 1): a key aspect of being human.

Is human facial distinctiveness an adaptive signal of individual identity? From a sociobiological perspective, humans seem to have the ‘perfect storm’ of selection press- ures that might favor recognizability. We are extremely social, interacting repeatedly with large numbers of indi- viduals, each with varying roles in our lives. We are extremely cooperative, and we make complex decisions about whether and how much to cooperate based on kin- ship, friendship and social reputation [39,78]. These beha- viors require accurate IR and the cognitive ability to associate complex information with each individual’s iden- tity. If human facial variability has evolved to signal individual identity, the properties of human facial vari- ation are expected to be consistent with those expected for identity signals [2] (Box 3). Targeted research is needed to evaluate how well human faces fit the general model. If human faces are identity signals, humans who are difficult to individually distinguish are expected to suffer costs. For example, perhaps career success in the entertainment industry is determined not only by attractiveness and talent, but also by a particularly distinctive appearance?

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "attractiveness, DNA, evolution, human pi..."
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Saturday, 05 Oct 2013 00:51

David Anthony, Wheeled vehicles, horses, and Indo-European origins (link)

Paper presented at the seminar "Tracing the Indo-Europeans: Origin and migration", organized by Roots of Europe - Language, Culture, and Migrations, University of Copenhagen, 12-14 December 2012

Kristian Kristiansen, Trade, travels and the transmission of cultural change in the Bronze Age (link)

See the playlist or Polako's blog for links to more talks.

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "video, Indo-European, aDNA, DNA"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Wednesday, 02 Oct 2013 12:08

NRNB Symposium on Network Biology 2012, Gladstone institutes, San Francisco: James Fowler presents Friendship and Natural Selection (link)

Friendship and Natural Selection

Nicholas A. Christakis, James H. Fowler

More than any other species, humans form social ties to individuals who are neither kin nor mates, and these ties tend to be with similar people. Here, we show that this similarity extends to genotypes. Across the whole genome, friends' genotypes at the SNP level tend to be positively correlated (homophilic); however, certain genotypes are negatively correlated (heterophilic). A focused gene set analysis suggests that some of the overall correlation can be explained by specific systems; for example, an olfactory gene set is homophilic and an immune system gene set is heterophilic. Finally, homophilic genotypes exhibit significantly higher measures of positive selection, suggesting that, on average, they may yield a synergistic fitness advantage that has been helping to drive recent human evolution.

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "video, personal genomics, DNA, evolution"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Tuesday, 01 Oct 2013 03:11
Neutral genomic regions refine models of recent rapid human population growth

In this study, we introduce targeted sequencing data for studying recent human history with minimal confounding by natural selection. We sequenced putatively neutral loci that are very far from genes and that meet a wide array of additional criteria. [. . .]

The best-fit model points to Europeans having experienced recent growth from an effective population size of about 4-7 thousand individuals as recently as 120--160 generations (3000--4000 years) ago. Growth over the last 3000-4000 years is estimated at an average rate of about 2--5% per generation, resulting in an overall increase in effective population size of two orders of magnitude.

[. . .] Motivated by archeological evidence of growth starting with the Neolithic revolution ~10,000 years ago and accelerating in the Common Era, we considered models that allow for acceleration of the rate of growth, but none supported such acceleration. One recent model considered two separate epochs of exponential growth (21). The first captures a slow recovery from the Eurasian population bottleneck ~23,000 years ago, with a weak growth rate of 0.3% that leads to an Ne of only 9208. This is similar to the instantaneous recovery from the population bottleneck in other models (16), rather than capturing recent rapid growth. Thus, to date no recent acceleration in the rate of growth that is along the lines proposed by archeological evidence has been observed in genetic data. Power calculations showed that our data size and modeling framework should be able to capture such an acceleration in growth in over 60% of cases. One explanation of our modeling not capturing two separate epochs of growth, other than limited statistical power, is that effective population size increases extremely slowly with the census population size, at least initially. While several factors contribute to these phenomenon, the particular increase in census population size with the Neolithic revolution has been accompanied by changing social structure that has led to increased variability in reproductive success; the advent of agriculture led to differential accumulation of richness, more notably in males, resulting in differential access to females compared to a hunter-gatherer life style (45). Increased variance in reproductive success results in relatively decreased effective population size. Perhaps jointly with other population processes, this social shift can explain either a lack of growth in effective population size initially or a milder one, which we have reduced power to capture, and which can lead to our models only capturing the more recent and more rapid growth.

In conclusion, we presented refined models of the recent explosive growth of European populations. These models can inform studies of natural selection (46, 47), the architecture of complex diseases, and the methods that should best be used for genotype-phenotype mapping. We hope that our models and the public availability of our NR dataset will facilitate additional such studies. Importantly, however, models of recent demographic history are still limited to Europeans (19-21) and African Americans (21), and there is a need to extend them to additional populations. As the vast majority of rare variants are population-specific (31, 48, 49), such extended models will also facilitate better consideration of the replicability of genome-wide association studies results across populations.

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "DNA, Europe, evolution"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Tuesday, 01 Oct 2013 00:25

Semen parameters in fertile US men: the Study for Future Families

The Study for Future Families (SFF) recruited men who were partners of pregnant women attending prenatal clinics in Los Angeles CA, Minneapolis MN, Columbia MO, New York City NY and Iowa City IA. Semen samples were collected on site from 763 men (73% White, 15% Hispanic/Latino, 7% Black and 5% Asian or other ethnic group) using strict quality control and well-defined protocols. [. . .] Black men had significantly lower semen volume, sperm concentration and total motile sperm counts than White and Hispanic/Latino men.
This is consistent with the other evidence I'm aware of. Lower sperm counts have been noted in Africa, and a study in Rochester, NY, that included a small number of American blacks similarly found:
All sperm parameters were significantly lower in the small subgroup (n = 7) of African-American men compared with other men in this population (p-values for sperm parameters, < 0.001 to 0.016).
Also consistent with these results: the only autopsy studies I'm aware of (at least one of which Rushton knew of before he became selectively forgetful) both suggest black men have smaller/lighter testes than white men.
Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "race differences, Rushton, testosterone"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Sunday, 29 Sep 2013 20:30
Whole-Exome Sequencing Reveals a Rapid Change in the Frequency of Rare Functional Variants in a Founding Population of Humans
In this work, we analyze the whole-exome sequences of French-Canadian individuals, a founder population with a unique demographic history that includes an original population bottleneck less than 20 generations ago, followed by a demographic explosion, and the whole exomes of French individuals sampled from France. We show that in less than 20 generations of genetic isolation from the French population, the genetic pool of French-Canadians shows reduced levels of diversity, higher homozygosity, and an excess of rare variants with low variant sharing with Europeans. Furthermore, the French-Canadian population contains a larger proportion of putatively damaging functional variants, which could partially explain the increased incidence of genetic disease in the province. Our results highlight the impact of population demography on genetic fitness and the contribution of rare variants to the human genetic variation landscape, emphasizing the need for deep cataloguing of genetic variants by resequencing worldwide human populations in order to truly assess disease risk.
Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "DNA, evolution"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Sunday, 29 Sep 2013 19:42

Charles Sumner, traveling in Maryland (February 24, 1834): "The whole country was barren and cheerless; houses were sprinkled very thinly on the road, and when they did appear they were little better than hovels [. . .] For the first time I saw slaves, and my worst preconception of their appearance and ignorance did not fall as low as their actual stupidity. They appear to be nothing more than moving masses of flesh, unendowed with any thing of intelligence above the brutes. I have now an idea of the blight upon that part of our country in which they live."

Charles Sumner, studying in Paris (January 13, 1838): "[The lecturer] had quite a large audience, among whom I noticed two or three blacks, or rather mulattoes,— two-thirds black, perhaps, — dressed quite a la mode, and having the easy, jaunty air of young men of fashion, who were well received by their fellow students. They were standing in the midst of a knot of young men; and their color seemed to be no objection to them. I was glad to see this; though, with American impressions, it seemed very strange. It must be, then, that the distance between free blacks and the whites among us is derived from education, and does not exist in the nature of things."

David McCullough, in The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris:

It was for Sumner a stunning revelation. Until this point he is not known to have shown any particular interest in the lives of black people, neither free blacks nor slaves. On his trip to Washington a few years earlier, traveling by rail through Maryland, he had seen slaves for the first time. They were working in the fields, and as he made clear in his journal, he felt only disdain for them. [. . .] He was to think that way no longer.

It would be a while before Sumner's revelation--that attitudes about race in America were taught, not part of "the nature of things"--would take effect in his career, but when it did, the consequences would be profound. Indeed, of all that Americans were to "bring home" from their time in Paris in the form of newly acquired professional skills, new ideas, and new ways of seeing things, this insight was to be as important as any.

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "WASPs, Moldbug, Puritans, history, Ameri..."
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Friday, 27 Sep 2013 20:43
DNA pioneer James Watson's genetic prescription: Have kids early

"If you add together all the mental diseases ... your chance of having a child with something bad is about 5 percent," Watson explained [. . .] So here's Watson's prescription: "You could reduce the frequency of this 5 percent — maybe down to one and a half percent, or 1 percent — if everyone had their children or if the DNA came from them when they were 15," he said.

Related: Paternal age and fitness in pre-industrial Finland (SMBE 2013)
Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "eugenics, DNA"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Thursday, 26 Sep 2013 01:26

[See Estimating the proportion of Puritan genes in America's white population for links to census data.]

"A Survey of Irish Surnames 1992-97" (pdf) lists the following as the 10 most common surnames in Ireland in the 1990s:

1. Murphy 2. (O)Kelly 3. Walsh(e) 4. (O)Connor 5. (O)Sullivan 6. (O)Byrne 7. (O)Brien 8. Ryan 9. Smith/Smyth 10. (O)Neill

We'll exclude Smith/Smyth for obvious reasons. The remaining 9 most common names, all of Gaelic origin, cover 7.85% of the 1990s Irish population. (With the 1890 data, the number would be 7.67%; but that's leaving out some of the variants included in the 1990s survey.) Northern Ireland's inclusion in the survey might end up inflating our surname-based Irish Catholic population estimates by something like 10%, but I'm not worried about this level of error right now.

The number of US whites bearing one of the nine most common Irish surnames in 2000, from Census data: 1188571

The extrapolated equivalent total number of Irish individuals among the US white population in 2000: 15141032

Which comes out to 7.78% of the ancestry of the US non-Hispanic white population in 2000.

15 million (or maybe 13.5 million) descendants is certainly a more plausible biological outcome of 4.5 million Irish immigrants than the "40 million Irish Americans" we see from census self-identifications.

But it appears there's considerably less disconnect between levels of Irish ancestry and Irish self-identification in Massachusetts (vs. the US as a whole).

In the 1940 Census (the 2000 Census surname data is not available broken down by state), 87028 Massachusetts whites had one of the nine most common Irish names. Based on that, we can estimate the number of Irish in MA was 1108637 -- or 25.9% of the total 1940 MA white population of 4280019.

The 2005-2009 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates put the Irish proportion of the Massachusetts population, based on self-identification, at 23.7% (vs. 11.9% for English). Or, considering only the non-Hispanic white population, something like 29% identify as Irish.

This better agreement likely reflects relatively lower levels of intermarriage in MA, as might be expected from the state's greater Irish concentration.

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "ethnicity, genealogy, America"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Wednesday, 25 Sep 2013 18:44
An ASHG 2013 abstract from AncestryDNA:

Reconstruction of Ancestral Human Genomes from Genome-Wide DNA Matches.

Individuals who lived long ago may still have much or all of their genome present in modern populations. The genomes of these individuals exist in small segments broken down by recombination and inherited in part by his or her descendants. If such an individual had many children, leading to a large number of descendants today, much of the ancestral genome will be present in modern populations. For the pairs of descendants with the “target” ancestor as their most recent common ancestor (MRCA), any region of their genomes shared identical-by-descent (IBD) most likely represents the corresponding region of the ancestor’s genome. Given a set of pairs of individuals linked to the same MRCA, we develop a novel computational approach to reconstruct the haplotypes of the MRCA from the IBD segments and haplotypes of the descendants. With simulated data we assess the performance of our method, affected by factors such as quality of genealogical trees used to infer the MRCA, reliability of inferred IBD, coverage of IBD segments, number of descendants of the MRCA, and number of sampled descendants. To demonstrate the utility of our method, we examine over 125,000 individuals in the AncestryDNA database with phased genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism data and detailed genealogical information. After first identifying regions of the genome shared IBD between all individuals, we selected one group of several hundred individuals with an 18th century couple as a known MRCA. Using our method to tile together these individuals’ IBD segments, we are able to reliably construct the ancestral couple’s four haplotypes in large genomic regions with high coverage of IBD segments. In regions of the genome with lower IBD coverage, we are unable to identify and construct all haplotypes with certainty. Our study demonstrates the possibility of reconstructing the genomes of human ancestors, with large family sizes and a large number of living descendants, who lived one to even 12 generations ago. The ability to reconstruct the genomes of human ancestors using genetic and genealogical data has exciting implications in the fields of population genetics, medical genetics, and genealogy research.

Blaine Bettinger has a longer post, The Science Fiction Future of Genetic Genealogy, inspired by the abstract.

While the potential for this sort of thing has been apparent for years, it's good to see concrete steps being taken in this direction. A related (perhaps slightly over-optimistic) 2010 post by Tamura Jones:

[. . .] The eventual future is that all vital sources will be online, and that’s vitally different.

Genealogical databases will not only contain DNA information for those whose DNA was sampled, but even DNA for earlier ancestors inferred from the DNA of their descendants. [. . .]

All sources will be online and have been used in the construction of genealogies. New events will be added as they occur. The eventual future is that all genealogies will have been done, verified against records, and amended through DNA research.

For a while researchers will try to fill in gaps and extend genealogies by locating information in unlikely sources not consulted before. Some genetic genealogy detectives will use DNA to try and solve challenging cases caused by a lack of reliable records, but their research will be replaced by automated techniques that calculate the probabilities for various possibilities.

Similar techniques will be used to extend existing genealogies a few more generations back into the past, using DNA to infer relations for which there are no records. Eventually, all genealogical research that can be done will have been done.

genealogy forever

Genealogy is doomed, long live genealogy. Genealogy will not become obsolete, but pervasive. Our descendants will have well-documented ancestries even before they are born.

That does not imply that the thrill of discovery will be gone. With the vital but bare genealogical facts laid out, the discovery will not be about who your ancestors are, but about exploring who they were.

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "personal genomics, DNA, genealogy"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Wednesday, 25 Sep 2013 17:51

Mol Biol Evol (2013) doi: 10.1093/molbev/mst158 First published online: September 17, 2013

Simultaneous purifying selection on the ancestral MC1R allele and positive selection on the melanoma-risk allele V60L in South Europeans

Martínez-Cadenas et al.

In humans, the geographical apportionment of the coding diversity of the pigmentary locus MC1R is, unusually, higher in Eurasians than in Africans. This atypical observation has been interpreted as the result of purifying selection due to functional constraint on MC1R in high UVB radiation environments. By analyzing 3,142 human MC1R alleles from different regions of Spain in the context of additional haplotypic information from the 1000 Genomes (1000G) Project data, we show that purifying selection is also strong in Southern Europe, but not so in Northern Europe. Furthermore, we show that purifying and positive selection act simultaneously on MC1R. Thus, at least in Spain, regions at opposite ends of the incident UV-B radiation distribution show significantly different frequencies for the melanoma-risk allele V60L (a mutation also associated to red hair and fair skin and even blonde hair), with higher frequency of V60L at those regions of lower incident UV-B radiation. Besides, using the 1000G South-European data, we show that the V60L haplogroup is also characterized by an EHH pattern indicative of positive selection. We, thus, provide evidence for an adaptive value of human skin depigmentation in Europe and illustrate how an adaptive process can simultaneously help maintain a disease-risk allele. In addition, our data support the hypothesis proposed by Jablonski and Chaplin (2010), which posits that habitation of middle latitudes involved the evolution of partially depigmented phenotypes that are still capable of suitable tanning.

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "DNA, evolution, human pigmentation"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Tuesday, 24 Sep 2013 18:54

Even more importantly, says Ryn, Catholics recognize in Straussians figures who share their own “alienation” about living in a predominantly Protestant country. [. . .] Straussians provide a narrative about the American founding that make ethnic Catholics feel secure about their Americanness.

Paul Gottfried on Leo Strauss, Allan Bloom, and their Catholic dupes:

Ryn raises the question of why Straussian doctrines have caught on among self-described conservatives. His answers here do not surprise me, since for many years the two of us discussed this puzzling matter and reached similar conclusions.

Conservatism Inc. has been so totally infiltrated from the Left that those ideas that used to define the Left—abstract universalism, the rejection of ethnic differences, the moral imperative to extend equality to all human relations—has spread to the official Right. The political debate in America now centers on Leftist propositions. Accordingly, someone like Bloom, who could barely conceal his animus against what remains of a traditional Western world based on what Ryn rightly calls a “classical and Christian” heritage, could be featured in the late 1980s as an American patriot and cultural traditionalist.

When Bloom declaimed against the hippies and potheads in his tracts, Christian America rose to his defense as a man of the Right. Never mind that Bloom was a flagrant homosexual and possibly a pederast—an erotic predilection that first comes out in print in the novel Ravelstein (1999), written by Saul Bellow, a close friend of Bloom. Personally, I am still hard pressed to find anything in Bloom’s defense of America that sounds even vaguely “Right Wing.”

Ryn also observes that Catholic intellectuals gravitate toward Straussian teachings, a fact that I dwell on in my book with greater thoroughness.

It is clear that real Straussians, as opposed to Catholic wannabe Straussians, are blatantly contemptuous of revealed religion, particularly Christianity, and work persistently to wash out any religiosity from those political philosophers they profess to admire. By the time these plastic surgeons finish with Plato, or any other thinker whom they claim to be able to interpret with an unmediated view of the past (Straussians do not recognize historical distance), they’ve turned their subjects into far different beings from what they likely were. As I quip in my book, Straussian subjects—including the ancient Greeks–are usually made to look like Jewish agnostics living in New York or Chicago and attending synagogue services once a year.

But the Catholic goyim love the Straussians because they yap on about “morals” and “civic virtue.” They even occasionally, while blatantly ignoring the facts, try to identify Strauss and his disciples with medieval scholastic thought.

Even more importantly, says Ryn, Catholics recognize in Straussians figures who share their own “alienation” about living in a predominantly Protestant country. As Canadian philosophy professor Grant Havers documents in a forthcoming book about the studied avoidance by Straussian interpreters of America’s Protestant heritage, Straussians provide a narrative about the American founding that make ethnic Catholics feel secure about their Americanness.

According to the Straussians, America was founded on secular, materialist and democratic principles, but in no way on Protestant ones. Thus, if the Straussians try to de-Christianize and de-ethnicize America, they also conveniently cover up the Protestant aspects of a specifically American tradition.

Catholic Straussians (of whom there are many in Conservatism, Inc.) feel safe living in a “propositional nation” and “global democracy” in which they don’t feel threatened by the real American Protestant (and/or Northern European) American past, extending back to the colonial period. It’s more convenient to jettison such associations for the vision of a constantly changing hybrid society that is held together by universal, egalitarian propositions.

Ryn is quite good on these points. But (alas) he falls down on the job when it comes to naming the most obvious recruits to the Straussian persuasion. He hints at identifying them, but may have recoiled from the implications of being extremely candid. As a Jew, I shall do it for him.

Straussianism is unthinkable without the rise of American Jewry to journalistic and academic importance. The “alienation” from the gentile historic and cultural heritage that Ryn is analyzing applies with particular relevance to Jews; and the construction of a Straussian ideology, like Cultural Marxism, may be unthinkable without the critical Jewish contribution. Moreover, the puff pieces about the Straussians’ deep intellectuality that have periodically appeared in the NYT, Washington Post, National Review, Wall Street Journal and Weekly Standard fully reflect the rise to prominence achieved by the group that typically produce the panegyrics to Straussian wisdom as well as Straussian doctrines.

Ryn notes the common ground between the author of The Closing of the American Mind and, according to Ryn’s description, a radical leftist Harvard professor of literature Stephen Greenblatt, who apparently specializes in deconstructing great literature by emphasizing its socioeconomic context. Both seemed equally intent on divesting America of its ethnic and religious roots. But there is a difference between the two—the Jewishness of whom should be taken as a critical given.

Whereas Greenblatt tries to reduce the achievements of Western culture to accidental products of historical developments, Bloom and his kindred spirits have been more ingenious. They have created their own narrative about the American and Western traditions, which is a glaringly truncated, hypermodern version of both, and they have sold these interpretations to the cognitively disadvantaged or hopelessly gullible as some kind of “conservatism.”

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "WASPs, history, Jews, America"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Tuesday, 24 Sep 2013 07:08

The swarming of foreigners into the great industries occurred at considerable cost to the native workingmen, for the latter struggled in vain for higher wages or better conditions as long as the employers could command the services of an inexhaustible supply of foreign laborers. Thus, the new immigration has made it easier for the few to amass enormous fortunes at the expense of the many and has helped to create in this country for the first time yawning inequalities of wealth.

Most sociologists believe that the addition of hordes of foreigners to the population of the United States has caused a decline in the birth-rate of the old American stock, for the native laborer has been forced to avoid large families in order to be in a position to meet the growing severity of the economic competition forced upon him by the immigrant. This condition, joined to the tendency of immigrant laborers to crowd the native Americans farther and farther from the industrial centers of the country, has caused the great communities and commonwealths of the Atlantic seaboard, about whose names cluster the heroic traditions of revolutionary times, to change completely their original characters. Puritan New England is today the home of a population of whom two-thirds were born in foreign lands or else had parents who were. Boston is as cosmopolitan a city as Chicago; and Faneuil Hall is an anachronism, a curiosity of bygone days left stranded on the shores of the Italian quarter. In fifteen of the largest cities of the United States the foreign immigrants and their children outnumber the native whites; and by the same token alien racial elements are in the majority in thirteen of the states of the Union. When President Wilson was at the Peace Conference, he reminded the Italian delegates that there were more of their countrymen in New York than in any Italian city; and it is not beside the point to add here that New York is also the greatest Irish city in the world and the largest Jewish city.

Whatever of history may be made in the future in these parts of the country will not be the result primarily of an "Anglo-Saxon" heritage but will be the product of the interaction of these more recent racial elements upon each other and their joint reaction to the American scene. Unless the unanticipated should intervene, the stewardship of American ideals and culture is destined to pass to a new composite American type now in the process of making. [. . .]

To the immigrant must also be assigned the responsibility for the accelerated growth of political and industrial radicalism in this country. While most of the newcomers quietly accepted their humble place in American society, a minority of the immigrants consisted of political refugees and other extremists, embittered by their experiences in European countries and suspicious of constituted authority under whatever guise.

From an essay in which the half-Jewish child of immigrants helpfully explains "The Significance of Immigration in American History" (the inevitable conclusion, naturally, being that America is "a nation of immigrants" -- or something like that). More:

Politically the immigration of the last half-century has borne good fruit as well as evil. The intelligent thoughtful immigrant lacked the inherited prejudices of the native voter and was less likely to respond to ancient catchwords or be stirred by the revival of Civil War issues. The practice of "waving the bloody shirt" was abandoned by the politicians largely because of the growing strength of the naturalized voters, of which group Carl Schurz was, of course, the archtype. In place of this practice arose a new one, equally as reprehensible, by which the major parties used their appointments to office and their platform professions to angle for the support of naturalized groups among the voters. Racial groupings became important pawns in the political game as played by astute politicians. Blaine is said to have lost the Irish vote and with it the presidency because an indiscreet supporter prominently identified his name with opposition, to "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion"; and in the next presidential election both parties found it expedient to insert in their platforms forthright declarations in favor of home rule for Ireland! The so-called "hyphenated American" has become a familiar figure in the last few years merely because the Great War has made native-born citizens take serious cognizance of the polyglot political situation; and the activity of the German-American Alliance in the campaign of 1916 is an illustration of how dangerous to the national welfare the meddling of racial divisions among the voters may become.

To the immigrant must also be assigned the responsibility for the accelerated growth of political and industrial radicalism in this country. While most of the newcomers quietly accepted their humble place in American society, a minority of the immigrants consisted of political refugees and other extremists, embittered by their experiences in European countries and suspicious of constituted authority under whatever guise. These men represented the Left Wing in their revolt against political authority in Europe just as three centuries earlier the Pilgrims comprised the Left Wing in their struggle against ecclesiastical authority. [Similar motives to Moldbug here, in attempting to associate 20th-century radicals with 17th-century New Englanders; but at least greater honesty in not asserting the former are direct ideological descendants of the latter.]

Since radicalism is a cloak covering a multitude of dissents and affirmations, the influence of these men may be traced in a wide variety of programs of social reconstruction and movements for humanitarian reform. The first Socialist parties in the United States were organized by German-Americans in the years following the Civil War; and political Socialism, in its type of organization, terminology, and methods of discipline, can hardly yet be said to be fully acclimated to the New World. Violence and anarchism were first introduced into the American labor movement in the eighties by Johann Most and his associates, the greater number of whom, like Most himself, were of alien birth; and the contemporaneous I.W.W. movement finds its chief strength in the support of the migratory foreign-born laborer. Even the Non-partisan League may not be hailed, though some would so have it, as a product of an indigenous American Socialism, for this organization originated and has enjoyed its most spectacular successes in a western commonwealth in which 70 per cent of the people were natives of Europe or are the children of foreign-born parents.

The new immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, with its lower standard of living and characteristic racial differences has intensified many existing social problems and created a number of new ones, particularly in the centers of population. The modern programs for organized and scientific philanthropy had their origin very largely in the effort to cure these spreading social sores. Out of this situation has also grown a new anti-immigration or nativist movement, unrelated to similar phenomena of earlier times and indeed regarding with approval the very racial groups against which the earlier agitation had been directed. This new movement has functioned most effectively through non-partisan channels, particularly through that of organized labor, and has commanded strong support in both parties. Whereas immigrants had virtually all been admitted without let or hindrance down to i875, a number of laws have been passed since then with the primary purpose of removing the worst evils of indiscriminate immigration, the severest restriction being the literacy test affixed in 1917. This contemporary nativism cannot justify its existence by reason of the large proportion of aliens as compared with the native population, for, as Professor Max Farrand has recently shown, immigration was on a proportionately larger scale in colonial times than during the last fifty years. It owes its being, doubtless, to the tendency of the latter-day immigrants to settle in portions of the country that are already thickly populated and to the fact that the Americans of older stock can no longer find relief from industrial competition by taking up government land in the West.

No modern people is compounded of such heterogeneous elements as the American. It is not fantastic to believe that, during three centuries of history, these alien breeds have not only profoundly influenced American manners, culture, institutions, and material progress but have also been largely responsible for distilling that precious essence which we call American idealism. The bold man falters when asked to define American idealism, but three of its affirmative attributes are assuredly a lyric enthusiasm for government by the people, an unwavering toleration of all creeds and opinions, and, in more recent times, a deep abiding faith in pacific foreign relations. The great mass of immigrants came to the New World to attest their devotion to one or all of these ideals-they came as protestants against tyranny, intolerance, militarism, as well as against economic oppression. Nor is more concrete evidence lacking to show that neither they nor their sons rested until these great principles were firmly woven into the fabric of American thought and political practice.

During the last five years the United States has risen to a position of world-leadership in a sense never realized by any other country in history. Sober reflection convinces one that this was not an accident due to one man's personality; it grew out of the inevitable logic of a situation which found the United States an amalgam of all the peoples at war. Although the old stocks continued belligerent and apart in Europe, the warring nations instinctively turned for leadership to that western land where the same racial breeds met and mingled and dwelt in harmony with each other. Observers in Europe during the war testify to the willingness with which all classes of people in the various countries were ready to hearken to and follow the country whose liberal spirit they knew from the letters of their friends in America or from their own experiences there. In the great world-drama President Wilson played a predestined part; by reason of his position as spokesman of the American people he was the historic embodiment of the many national traditions inherent in a nation formed of many nations. This would seem to foreshadow the r6le which, for good or ill, the United States is fated to play in the future. Those who, in the discussions over the proposed League of Nations, are advocating the return of the United States to a position of isolation and irresponsibility have failed to grasp the significance of immigration in American history.

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "WASPs, Puritans, history, Jews, America"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Date: Tuesday, 24 Sep 2013 05:46
If some supernatural observer could have taken a bird's-eye view of New England in 1850 and again in 1900, he would read the story of change in plain characters. Approaching New England, as would become a Superior Intelligence, by way of Boston, he would find the region for some fifteen miles around the gilded dome on Beacon Hill so "filled in " as to form a continuous city with a million people, nearly half of them — figuring back for three generations — being Irish, about one-sixth "Old Americans," and the rest Germans, British, Scandinavians, Italians, Frenchmen, Chinamen, and citizens generally. [. . .] In Fall River, with 85 per cent, of foreign population, he might inquire his way half a dozen times before meeting a person who spoke English.

Having left a New England of full-blooded Yankees, which supplied its own wants and sent little abroad, he finds a population half foreign, dependent on others for its corn and grain and beef and mutton, but supplying half the nation with boots and shoes, making three-fourth's of its cottons and using half its wool.

Social changes in New England in the past fifty years

By Edwin Webster Sanborn

Fifty years ago the new order of things had made little change in the outward appearance of New England. It was still a compact community, peopled for the most part by direct descendants of the old Puritan stock. It was a land of farmers, and the type of New England life was the country village. Commerce and fisheries were important sources of wealth; but merchants and seafaring men, as well as the minister, lawyer, doctor, and mechanic, generally owned a little land, and helped to make agriculture the prevailing occupation. Factories had been slowly taking the place of household' industry, yet manners and way of living belonged to the homespun age. People continued to prepare, by the chastening of Fast Day, for the exuberance of May muster. The electric telegraph was a mysterious novelty. Stage-coaches still creaked and rattled over many routes of traffic. Railroad trains were drawn by small, asthmatic locomotives, having large smoke-stacks, shaped like an inverted volcano and pouring forth proportionate volumes of smoke. Delays were frequent, to stake the thirst of the engine and replenish the itinerant wood-pile which served as fuel. The cars had low, flat roofs and small, cinder-cemented windows, and were but little better ventilated than the drawing-room cars of the present day. The railroad system of New England has always been rich in "junctions," where, in the early days, the traveller awaited his "connecting train " for periods ranging from a fleeting hour to undetermined stretches of duration. It is a curious fact, noted by the late Professor Phelps in his poetic tribute to Essex Junction, that there was always a cemetery near, catering perhaps to such wayfarers as might sink under wasting afflictions or be suddenly stricken at the lunch counter. Beyond the reach of the railroads, wood and farm produce were carried to market by river boats and coasting schooners, which brought back the "W. I. goods and groceries" of the country store. It was still the day of large families and small travel, of near-by markets and local peculiarities.

The smallness of travel applied only to landsmen, and not to the farmers who ploughed the deep. Coves and harbors along the coast were lively with Down-East punkies and clippers, and with the curing and storing of fish. Daniel Webster, trying a case on Cape Cod relating to a small harbor in the South Pacific, found that seven of the jury had often visited the harbor and knew all about it. The commander of a Russian exploring expedition, engaged in one of the early attempts to square the arctic circle, became lost in a fog as he was about to secure his fame by surveying the terminal facilities of the earth. When the fog lifted, he found himself in the midst of a Yankee fleet and near a harbor which was their regular base of supply for cruises to the northward. The wives and daughters of Nantucket climbed up to the "whale-walks " on their house-tops to watch for returning husbands and fathers. Bangor was the largest pine-distributing centre on the continent, and the lines of the Gloucester fishermen had gone out through all the earth. The New England of the Puritans had reached the height of its prosperity and the golden age of its literature. It was making ready for its day of trial and sacrifice in the Civil War.

About the middle of the century the rapid extension of railroads brought the "rocky farm" into contrast and competition with the "rich prairie." The Walker tariff of 1846 and the opening of new markets stimulated the building of large factories and hastened the "rush to the cities." The discovery of gold on the Pacific coast aggravated the Western fever, while famine and disturbances abroad were starting a migration across the Atlantic. The growth of shore fishing and the canning of sea-food were beginning to affect the deep-sea fisheries, when the reciprocity treaty of 1854 opened our markets to Canadian fishermen. The surviving monsters of the deep were seeking discreet seclusion just as the introduction of mineral oils rendered their pursuit less profitable.

If some supernatural observer could have taken a bird's-eye view of New England in 1850 and again in 1900, he would read the story of change in plain characters. Approaching New England, as would become a Superior Intelligence, by way of Boston, he would find the region for some fifteen miles around the gilded dome on Beacon Hill so "filled in " as to form a continuous city with a million people, nearly half of them — figuring back for three generations — being Irish, about one-sixth "Old Americans," and the rest Germans, British, Scandinavians, Italians, Frenchmen, Chinamen, and citizens generally. Moving along the seacoast, his eye would be caught by the bleaching "whalers " labelled as curiosities at the New Bedford docks, by the villas and palaces at Newport, by the sagging wharves of Salem and Newburyport, and by huge hotels at every sandy beach from Narragansett to Old Orchard. In smaller harbors he might see a trim Yankee clipper lying idly in the mud at the head of the cove, while a splendid pleasure yacht rests at anchor within the point. An old weather-cured skipper, whose voice pierced the fogs of the Great Banks and rose above the blasts of the Horn, is perhaps taking out a party of land lubbers and lubberesses in his catboat to fish for scup or flat-fish. In river valleys the smoke of factory chimneys would draw attention to busy cities, wherever water power had fixed a site for manufacturing. In their suburbs he would mark the hard roads, with their maze of wires and buzz of trolleys and lines of thrifty dwellings. He would note that the forests had been thinned and shrinking back up the mountain ranges and toward the northern border. He would miss the flocks and herds which dotted the hill pastures, and would linger above the scrubby fields, tumble-down fences, and decaying houses of the abandoned farms. Less often he would come upon a deserted church, a ghastly hulk, weather-stained and crumbling, windows blind and glaring, ridge-pole sunken, lightning-rod loosened from the tottering steeple, and drooping like the bedraggled feather of a fallen outcast. In the streets of the cities he would be impressed by the large plate glass windows of the shops, with their display of attractions, and by the variety of fruit and produce offered for sale. He would be surprised at the large number of old and young wearing glasses, and would perhaps notice how rarely he met a person pitted with small-pox. He would wonder at the cleanliness of the street crossings, till he observed the trailing skirts of the ladies. In Fall River, with 85 per cent, of foreign population, he might inquire his way half a dozen times before meeting a person who spoke English.

Having left a New England of full-blooded Yankees, which supplied its own wants and sent little abroad, he finds a population half foreign, dependent on others for its corn and grain and beef and mutton, but supplying half the nation with boots and shoes, making three-fourth's of its cottons and using half its wool.

Early in the century, each farm, like the community, was selfsustaining, The "independent farmer" was indeed independent. Food and clothing are both grown on the farm. He made his own sleds, brooms, medicines, vinegar, soap, ox-yokes; sometimes his own tools, rope, shingles, boxes, barrels, and furniture. He drew sweetness from rock-maples and dipped light from tallow. He got his pins from the white-thorn bush in the pasture. He grafted trees and painted buildings. He would "like to see anything he couldn't do." The congenial practice of swapping helped him to be independent even of money. The homespun idea was the key to everything in life and character. Clothing being made at home, the flax grown and the sheep .raised corresponded to the number in the family. Little money was needed; and, there being little money and little knowledge of the outer world, there was small temptation to extravagance. Everything centred in the home. A hundred associations, now things of the past, solidified family life. A farmer setting out for church in his broadcloth coat might notice the very sheep whose greeting would remind him that he was wearing the wool at second hand. He would pass the fields where his straw hat and dinner basket had grown, and where the linen of his wife's go-tomeeting gown had blossomed. The leather of his boots had been grown and perhaps tanned on the farm. The striking of fire from a flint and drawing of water with a sweep were picturesque rites, a communion with the localized spirits of fire and water, which were cheapened as matches were carried in the pocket and pump handles bobbed in the kitchen.

The modern system of division of labor has brought the New England farmer many comforts and advantages, and mocks him with a vision of many more. Supplies and appliances better than were made at home are laid at his door, and many are wonderfully cheap. The Standard Oil Company has taken charge of candle-dipping. Factories at Lowell and Fall River maintain a continuous spinning-bee. The trouble is that they all want money. Before he thinks of buying comforts or luxuries, there are certain fixed charges to be met,— for taxes, labor, commercial fertilizers, and groceries, with demand for tools, machinery, harnesses, wagons, and a hundred other things. In the scheme of specialization where comes in the specialty which is to bring the New England farmers their share of the medium of exchange? Those who have not emigrated have answered the question to some extent by leaving the rougher lands for market gardens, poultry, fruit, and dairy farms; but the result of changed conditions has been the disappearance of the agricultural New England of fifty years ago.

In the manufacturing towns which have become the centre of characteristic life, changes have -been chiefly in the way of growth and expansion. Before 1850 factory work had been done by young people from the farms. In summer the factory bell aroused the town at half-past four in the morning for a day's labor of thirteen hours. Wages were low, but board could be had at $1.00 to $1.50 by the week. Native labor was soon displaced by foreign, the early immigration being Irish; and thr Irish have been succeeded by the incursion of French Canadians, beginning twenty years later. At present these latest arrivals, in a solid body of half a million, compact in language and intact in religion, are testing the digestive powers of New England.

Manufacturing industry, along with its growth, has passed through a process of evolution. Many small local factories found themselves unable to compete with the resources of the larger centres, and have dropped out. The location of factory towns was fixed at first by water power, but of late the mills have become largely independent of water. The advantage of cheap transportation and the effect of competition have been shown in the concentration of cotton mills around Narragansett Bay and Buzzards Bay.

The church and school of Puritan New England have been differently affected by these fundamental changes. The division into sects had occurred in the first half of the century, the Baptists, Universalists, Methodists, Unitarians, etc., separating from the Congregational order and the Episcopalians and Presbyterians coming in. The breaking up was natural in a time of mental and spiritual ferment, though the causes affecting individuals were doubtless varied. In the case of Zephaniah Cross the going over to the Baptist communion was due to the Eastman auction. A bellows-top buggy was sacrificed at such figures that Mr. Cross was constrained to bid it in. The lofty "bellus-top" would not turn back, and on arriving at his stall in the orthodox church sheds he found himself unable to drive under the roof. The horse sheds of the Baptist society were built upon more liberal lines, and after a season of earnest deliberation he became a convert to the doctrine of immersion. [. . .]

Education has no story of decay except in decreased attendance at rural schools and disappearance of many of the unendowed academies. The strength of the old district school was in the close relationship of teacher and pupils. The school like the home was full of local associations and individual character. The school-boy of fifty years ago remembers the noonmark on the window-sill, the crack in the floor where classes toed the mark, the raspberry bush inciting to tardiness, and the birch provided in the compensation of nature as a corrective.

The learning of a few books "by heart" fostered exactness of knowledge, with freedom and accuracy in giving it expression. If written examinations had prevailed in those days, the scholars would have compared favorably with those of the present day in preciseness of definition and in ability to tell what they knew.

Children went barefoot in summer. In winter the boys wore home-made caps with flapping ear-laps, home-knit comforters, and copper-toed cowhide boots, periodically greased to exclude the elements. It is a strange but true story of the force of early habit that an honored and well-known scholar, sitting at a formal dinner and becoming abstracted during the brilliant monologue of another distinguished guest, was seen anointing his boots with the oil of the salad cruet.

After spinning-wheels and looms were carried to the attic, few families could afford to buy store clothes. They made up the cloth at home, allowing liberal margins to growing boys, some of whom never attained the full standard of their sleeves and trousers. Children in the old times were so numerous that like silver in the days of Solomon they were nothing accounted of. It is certainly a change to the present age when the child is father of the man, and of the grandparent and of the whole community. One sympathizes with the man mentioned by Mr. Emerson who felt it a misfortune to have been born when children were nothing and to have lived until men were nothing.

As late as 1850 all the colleges of New England were "seats of learning" of the old-fashioned sort. At the opening of the academic year the country colleges welcomed the candidate for matriculation mounted on a farm wagon, drawn by the horse which could be most easily spared from farm work, and bearing the blessing of his mother and the seed-cakes of his grandmother. Chapel exercises were held before daylight in midwinter, in chapels lighted by candles and heated by the Aurora Borealis. A chronic form of suicide, known as "boarding one's self," was not uncommon. The lack of amusements and of rational forms of exercise led to such laborious forms of pleasantry as gathering the blinds and gates of the village upon the campus or the elevation of a horse or cow to the college belfry.

Higher education has not merely become higher, but broader,— too broad, as old-fashioned people think, to be deep. Wealth has increased at the old centres of learning. Wisdom could not fail to accumulate when, as has been remarked, so much is brought in by successive classes of Freshmen and so little is carried away by Seniors.

The lyceum was another power in education which brought the Mahomets of New England to the mountains of New Hampshire, Vermont, and the Berkshires. Newspapers now bring a larger world to the same hill country, but without the personal magnetism and touch of enthusiasm inspired when Emerson, Holmes, and Phillips lectured in the meeting-house and college students boarded 'round in the school district. There was also an agreeable reaction on the minds and pockets of the lecturers. Dr. Chapin used to say that he valued the fame derived from lecturing, F-A-M-E standing for Fifty And My Expenses. Mr. James T. Fields having given one of his charming lectures in the missionary spirit in a small place, where no amount had been agreed upon, his charges were discussed with the Lecture Committee. "We had calkerlated," said the spokesman, "to make it five dollars; but it wa'n't exackly what we expected, and we have conclooded that tew fifty would be abaout right!"

The railroads and newspapers have also robbed the tavern of its importance as a social club. In the stage-coach days the tavern-keeper was a person of importance and dignity. He gathered news from travellers and hobnobbed with public men. Neighbors dropped in with gossip, which, he was expected to broadcast. He was a combined bulletin board, club steward, Exchange, Board of Trade, and Associated Press. It is a tribute to the old New England tavern that a large proportion of the men who have made the reputation and managed the business of the great hotels of New York as well as in more distant cities served their apprenticeship in New England, and largely on main lines of stage traffic which ran from Boston up through New Hampshire. With the decrease of road travel taverns sank into a desuetude not wholly innocuous. In "wet" or semi-wet towns they became a "hang-out" for local sons of Belial. At arid cross-roads it became difficult to obtain nourishment except at stated times. An indulgent landlady might fry the wayfarer a few buckwheat cakes and a cup of tea, but eggs and meat were hard to find. The bicycle has not done all that was expected as a reviving force; but the general reaction of city on country is slowly awakening the country hotel. [. . .]

It has to be admitted that the praise of old-fashioned social life will hardly bear examination. The necessities of things had made the exaltation of "work" a sort of mechanical religion. Faces, even of the young, assumed a set, anxious, but determined expression. Their life was described by that long and dreary word "utilitarian." The farmer thought of the cloud-capped mountain as a convenient but unreliable barometer, and of the joyous cascade as a feature of the grist-mill. Economy was a fetich, and extravagance a sin. The good times which the young people managed to have stand out by contrast against the cold uniformity of the sombre background. The characteristic traits of the New England of fifty years ago were the natural outcome of such a life working upon such material,— versatility, "capableness," practical skill, shrewd common sense, with lapses into gullibility, close observation and quaint remark, earnestness, philosophic humor, craving for knowledge, ambition to "be something." They were close-mouthed and close-fisted, self-contained, and self-assertive. No other race of farmers " have had such acute intelligence, reverence for learning, and keen sense of the superior importance of spiritual things." For six generations they worked in their narrow training school, .without realizing that they were victims of special hardship. But, when a broader life was offered, they lost no time in going out to preach the sermons, teach the schools, edit the journals, make the laws, build up the business, and take charge of the purses and principles of the whole nation.

Their lives of patient self-denial were not without a craving for brightness and beauty. It seldom went farther among the men than to express itself in neat dooryards and trim fences and in the stately trees which lined the streets of every village. Our grandmothers loved the scent of lilacs and syringa and the cheeriness of hollyhocks and tiger lilies. In the days when carpets, except rag rugs, were an unheard of luxury, Mrs. Rowe has told us that a good sister secured a large square of sail-cloth, and with a few crude colors painted upon this canvas rude patterns of familiar flowers, chiefly blue roses and green lilies, covering the whole with a thick coat of varnish. Everybody came to see, and wonder and admire, Deacon Close among them. Turning his honest, weather-beaten face earnestly upon the erring sister, he exclaimed, "Do you expect to have all this, Sister Meiggs — and heaven, too?" [. . .]

As to the comparative advantages of the old way of life, if anybody wants to try for himself, as a native philosopher observed, "there ain't no law agin it." Only a few days ago a man went into a store in Fairfield, Me., and remarked that everything except the boots that he had on — namely, stockings, shirts, underclothes, outside clothes, and cap — were spun, woven, and made by his mother. The fact that we seldom hear of such cases confirms the general belief that the new order of things, from a material point of view, is an improvement.

The Puritan New England was like a mighty tree, which, after a slow, patient growth of two hundred years and sending its seeds to float upon the Western air, bowed before the storms of change.

But strong shoots are springing up in the old soil. There seems to be a feeling in many quarters that New England is in a bad way. Look through an index of periodical literature for the past ten years, and you find information grouped under such heads as the following: —NEW ENGLAND: Decline of; Decay of Rural; Decadence of Thought of; Problems of Churches of; Crisis in Industries of. If there has been any general decline in material prosperity, it is not a matter of record. The census of 1895 showed a gain in population in Massachusetts of 15 per cent., about the same as in Wisconsin, in the growing region of the West. The percentage of increase throughout New England for the past ten years will be found to be the largest for any decade since 1850. Eank clearings, railroad earnings, savings deposits, school appropriations, and other barometers fail to show any area of depression. In New England it is particularly true that social changes depend on economic conditions. During the general sluggishness of business the present advantages of cotton manufacturers in the South were brought into marked prominence. As was the case in New England fifty years ago, they are favored with an abundance of native labor at low wages, and are free from restrictions as to age of operatives and hours of labor. The wage-demanding element is nit yet organized. Southern manufacturing will increase to the benefit of the South and advantage of the whole country. Jobbers of boots and shoes in the West will become manufacturers. In these and other lines, local manufacturers will supply their own tributary country with many grades of goods. How far they will cut into New England business is not yet clear. Relations between labor and capital will in time be figured as closely as in the East. With materials like wool and cotton, which are compact in bulk and converted into fabrics with little waste, the question of advantage in freight rates depends upon nearness to the consumer. Iowa creameries can deliver butter in the New York market to better advantage than a farmer twenty miles away in Westchester County, because the bulky Western grown feedstuffs, the raw materials, freights on which are prohibitory to the Eastern farmer, are converted at home into a concentrated product. But there is no such difference between wool and woollens or between cotton and cotton fabrics, or even between leather and boots and shoes.

In New England, manufacturers have a large market at home which geographically belongs to them. The recent meetings of manufacturers in Boston were largely occupied with discussions of the growth of exports. We grow the cotton of the world and let others profit by its manufacture, standing fifth in the list of exporting nations and below the inland republic of Switzerland. Last year the United States produced 11,078,000 bales of cotton, out of a total world's product of 12,949,000 bales. New England manufactured about one-fourth as much as Old England. Yet the exports of Great Britain were to those of America nearly in the mystic ratio of 16 to i. Our sales of cotton goods in Latin America in the decade ending 1898 were less than 6 per cent> of their total purchases. With cottons and other classes of goods the problems of overproduction and home competition may perhaps be met by studying the tastes of foreign consumers, extending facilities for American banking and trading, and promoting reciprocal trade. It is possible that the time may come when all the cotton grown in the South, on both sides of the Mississippi, will be manufactured in the South. If the future deprives New England of the material to continue what is now her greatest industry, it is not too much to assume that Yankee ingenuity will by that time have found something to take its place. [. . .]

The friendly interest of the cities is a matter of policy for the future as well as obligation for the past. In the age of collectivism, votes are still distributed among individuals; and New England farmers in a crisis vote and act for order and stability. Our great statesmen, merchants, and soldiers come from the farm. While the present standard of our great men is phenomenally high, we must not allow the source of supply to deteriorate. Farmers lead a life which every son of Adam ought to lead. Many of pur millionaires would go back and run a farm if they could afford it.

The rural villages have also their social problems and sharp contrasts. There are many indications of the growing up of a landed aristocracy. Wealthy people spend more time each year in their country houses. The situation is full of problems, but problems are the New Englander's vital breath. Looking at the difficulties of the past, any future seems easy. Other portions of the country boast of their "resources,"— rich mines, fertile soils, soft skies, inexhaustible forests. As Preston, of South Carolina, said, New England has nothing to offer but granite and ice,— "nothing but rocks and ice "; and of late the factories are robbing her of even her homespun ice.

The modesty of New England in treating of the civilization which she built up and of her influence on other regions is proverbial. She might dwell with equal modesty and volubility upon what she has done at home in meeting the changes of the nineteenth century. For a single item, think of the social and sanitary problems involved in the sudden crowding of the cities and swarming in of a tenement population. Yet the death-rate in Massachusetts in 1890-95 was but little different from that in 1856-60. Scarlet fever and typhoid fever, which stood high in the list of causes of death in 1856, have disappeared from among the first ten causes. The improvement has kept pace with increase in public water supplies and growth of sanitary science.

The European peasant comes in with listless, sullen face, and clumsy walk. His dirty-faced children go to school under the flag. In ten years there is little to distinguish them from other Yankees. [A bit overly optimistic.] Their sons will deliver addresses in Faneuil Hall, and become members of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery.

It is a time of transition for New England at the end of the century as it was in 1850. One prophecy seems safe,— that nothing in the future will test her powers of adaptation and assimilation more severely than the changes of the past fifty years.

Author: "n/a (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "WASPs, Puritans, history, America"
Send by mail Print  Save  Delicious 
Next page
» You can also retrieve older items : Read
» © All content and copyrights belong to their respective authors.«
» © FeedShow - Online RSS Feeds Reader