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It's in the hair.
February 11, 2010 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have become the first to reconstruct the nuclear genome of an extinct human being. The reconstruction serves as blueprint that scientists can use to give a description of how the pre-historic Greenlander, Inuk, looked - including his tendency to baldness, dry earwax, brown eyes, dark skin, the blood type A+, shovel-shaped front teeth, and that he was genetically adapted to cold temperatures, and to what extend he was predisposed to certain illnesses.
posted by three blind mice (31 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
ICEMAN SMASH MODERN HUMAN WEAKLINGS!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:45 AM on February 11, 2010


Extinct human being? What does that mean in this context? Clearly they don't just mean dead, since that happens all the time. And it's apparently homo sapiens sapiens, so it's not a matter of the species being extinct. I think it means 'dead for a really long time' but maybe it has a more specific meaning in anthropology. Or it could just be the result of a translation from the original Danish.
posted by jedicus at 11:46 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if we could use him to help with the Bust to Waist Ratio debate.

Scientist: Hey, Inuk, look at these pics of naked chicks then..

Inuk: GAH WHAT IZ ALL BALD NAUGHTY BITS....WHERE IZ HAIR..GAAAAAAAAHHHH
posted by spicynuts at 11:47 AM on February 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Skynet laughs at your feeble carbon science.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:50 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love the conclusions they jump to when they do the artwork for this sort of thing- as if thick dark hair and a propensity to baldness should mean this fellow looked like the guy in V for Vendetta.
I remember when they did the reconstruction of Kennewick Man- he looked like Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard. Doing the art for these things must be a blast.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:55 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's got a sweet hairdo.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:56 AM on February 11, 2010


Extinct human being?

I think they mean "Individual from an extinct subgroup - i.e. which has no decedents today" It's imprecise, but not that difficult to understand.
posted by delmoi at 11:56 AM on February 11, 2010


Someone better tell him not to weeze the juice.
posted by jquinby at 11:58 AM on February 11, 2010


Jack Black?
posted by The Whelk at 11:58 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Individual from an extinct subgroup - i.e. which has no decedents today"

If it's an extinct subgroup I think they're all decedents these days.

Yeah, I know what you meant.
posted by jedicus at 12:00 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


That bastard Leno... HE'S GROWING HIS NEW AUDIENCE!
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 12:01 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey! I know that guy!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:01 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is exactly how Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer began.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:02 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Inuk looks like he is from the Johnny Depp "Imagine You Smell Poo But Don't Know Where It Is" School of Acting.
posted by spicynuts at 12:06 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Astro Zombie

It's just 'Cirroc', your Honor.. and, yes, I'm ready. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes the honking horns of your traffic make me want to get out of my BMW.. and run off into the hills, or wherever.. Sometimes when I get a message on my fax machine, I wonder: "Did little demons get inside and type it?" I don't know! My primitive mind can't grasp these concepts. But there is one thing I do know - when a man like my client slips and falls on a sidewalk in front of a public library, then he is entitled to no less than two million in compensatory damages, and two million in punitive damages. Thank you."
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 12:07 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Skirting the narrow margins of survival in an unrelenting, merciless climate in the front, party in the back.
posted by stavrogin at 12:08 PM on February 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well, the appearance seems unchanged from modern Inuit.
posted by cardboard at 12:09 PM on February 11, 2010


Build a time machine already! Lazy scientists.
posted by greenland at 12:18 PM on February 11, 2010


Inuk looks like he is from the Johnny Depp 'Imagine You Smell Poo But Don't Know Where It Is' School of Acting.

For a second there I thought you meant Steven Seagal, but he always looks like he has to fart. It's the subtle things that differentiate the masters.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:29 PM on February 11, 2010


@cardboard

My thoughts exactly.

(That's a highly recommended movie, btw)
posted by Zinger at 12:37 PM on February 11, 2010


It's been a good week for SCIENCE! We found that damn stuttering gene, and we figured out what color dinosaurs were!
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:54 PM on February 11, 2010


Yes, but can you have sex with it?

Sorry I just came from a forum on the nonsensical nature of Bioware games (mass effect, dragon age, etc).
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 1:16 PM on February 11, 2010


The problem with this type of study is that you can never be sure that the DNA is not contaminated with contemporary human DNA. At least when you're looking at woolly mammoth, you can do similarity analyses to filter out bits of sequence identical to known human sequences. The subject of this study has something like 99.5% sequence similarity to us and, more importantly, the people doing the study. I don't think this type of thing will tell us too much, to be honest.
posted by reformedjerk at 1:31 PM on February 11, 2010


The problem with this type of study is that you can never be sure that the DNA is not contaminated with contemporary human DNA.

If you read the article in Science, you would have read this:
Willerslev and colleagues, who report their findings tomorrow in Nature, went to great lengths to show that the sample was not contaminated by modern DNA--a concern because the hair had been handled by archaeologists and stored in a museum. Hair, which is nonporous, is ideal: "All the contamination is on the surface, so it's quite easy to get rid of," says Morten Rasmussen, another researcher on the team.

To verify that the sample was contamination-free, the researchers looked for traces in the genetic code of genes that appear only in European populations. They found none, showing that the DNA inside the hair shaft was pure. "They did everything they could to show the sequence was good," says Beth Shapiro, a biologist at Pennsylvania State University, University Park. "It's a beautiful sample."

posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:18 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh hey, here is the article in Science. I thought it was behind a paywall.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:23 PM on February 11, 2010


The actual study is in Nature, and looks to be freely available. They actually did a couple of things to reduce possible contamination - all the sample preparation was done by ethnic Europeans, so that they can look for the European-only SNPs and estimate contamination by comparison with closer relatives of the Saqqaq. They also added a DNA tag to the Saddaq DNA during the preparation, so that any sequences without the tag could be considered to be post-preparation contaminants and ignored. This paper has more than you probably want to know about avoiding contamination of ancient DNA, from the group that is sequencing the Neanderthal genome.
posted by penguinliz at 3:16 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


How long til they do this to DNA recovered from rapes?
posted by codswallop at 5:39 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, the only way to be REALLY SURE what this caveman looked like is to clone him...
posted by kaibutsu at 6:54 PM on February 11, 2010


This is really fascinating for lots of reasons, not least of which is the spotlight it shines on the messy nature of prehistory. It wasn't a simple progression out from Africa to the rest of the world like you hear on some of the pop science shows. There were different waves of colonization, and many cultures and peoples just ...disappeared, morphing into something else or vanishing completely.

What happened to Inuk's people, the Saqqaq? How could a culture of successfully adapted hunters (and their neighbours the Independence I culture) vanish like that? Was there some kind of disaster in Greenland that crashed their civilization? Maybe they gradually recovered to become the Dorsets, only to slowly fade away again in the middle ages, this time for good. History is full of dusty, little known corners where entire nations like Inuk's Saqqaq are hidden away.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:36 PM on February 11, 2010


Didn't he star in a SF film? Looks similar to one living star.
posted by joetrip at 3:01 AM on February 12, 2010


Should We Clone Neanderthals?
posted by homunculus at 12:30 PM on February 16, 2010


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