142070879_52a83d8991_b In a discovery that is sure to broaden the scope of modern insults, researchers — including UC Berkeley’s Montgomery Slatkin — have found a finger bone in a Siberian cave which suggests that there were three distinct human species in existence 40,000 years ago.

This third species — called the “Denisovans” — was likely prevalent throughout much of Eurasia, though researchers admit that little is known about them archeologically or morphologically. Recently concluded genetic analysis on the bone has shown that the Denisovans may have contributed up to 6 percent of the modern human genome among certain populations, one researcher claiming that:

“In combination with the Neanderthal genome sequence, the Denisovan genome suggests a complex picture of genetic interactions between our ancestors and different ancient hominin groups.”

Hmm. “Genetic interactions.” That’s quite the euphemism. Anthropological research is ongoing, but in the mean time, the next time you are looking to insult someone’s primitive nature, you can forgo the now-trite “neanderthal” in favor of the more current “denisovan.”

Image Source: erix! under Creative Commons
Genome of Extinct Siberian Cave-dweller Linked to Modern-day Humans [NSF]


If you aren’t intrigued by that title, you must have a heart colder than the Icelandic winter. And yeah, we know it’s cold — in fact, we know everything there is to know about Iceland since we just watched the movie “Jar City,” which was screened today in 142 Dwinelle.

“Jar City,” based on an Icelandic crime novel, follows two men: one, a grieving genetics worker who just lost his child to disease, and the other, a stoic Scandinavian detective trying to solve a grisly murder. The movie was screened because of its relevance to genetics (and thus the On the Same Page program).

But this isn’t sci fi — the genetics component springs from reality. Iceland is very ice-olated (forgive the horrible pun) and has been keeping detailed geneological records since the 1200′s, so their populace was viewed as ideal for genetic research. In 1998 they passed a law giving the rights of the entire population’s genetic information to a private read more »


You’ve probably heard by now about the controversy surrounding the 2010 On the Same Page program. This year’s freshmen were asked to swab their cheeks in order to get their DNA tested for specific genetic variations on three genes (lactase, ethanol, and folic acid, if you were interested). And if you’ve heard about that, you might be wondering about last night’s keynote speech by MCB professor Jasper Rine, entitled “Looking for the Good News in Your Genome.”

Let out your bated breath, because here comes a highlight reel of the evening’s speech:

-The controversy sprang mostly from, according to Rine, “misunderstanding” and “discomfort.” He claims that under California law, read more »