| 2 November 2008
Ancient iceman probably has no modern relatives
Oetzi, Italy's prehistoric iceman, probably does not have any modern day descendants, according to a recent study. A team of Italian and British scientists who sequenced his mitochondrial DNA - which is passed down through the mother's line - found that Oetzi belonged to a genetic lineage that is either extremely rare or has died out. Although he fell into a subgroup called K1, his lineage did not match any of the three known K1 'clusters'.
Professor Martin Richards, from the University of Leeds, said: "Our analysis confirms that Oetzi belonged to a previously unidentified lineage of K1 that has not been seen to date in modern European populations. The frequency of genetic lineages tends to change over time, due to random variations in the number of children people have - a process known as 'genetic drift' - and as a result, some variants die out. Our research suggests that Oetzi's lineage may indeed have become extinct and we'll only know for sure by sampling intensively in the Alpine Valleys where Oetzi was born."
The findings published in the journal Current Biology reverses previous research from 1994 on a small section of Oetzi's DNA that suggested the so-called 'Iceman' had relatives living in Europe. But Richards and colleagues said their analysis confirmed that Oetzi belonged to a previously unidentified lineage that has not been seen to date in modern European populations.
Scientists were thrilled to find Oetzi's mummified body had remained frozen, and so almost perfectly preserved, for more than 5,000 years. Oetzi's mummified remains were found in September 1991 in the Eastern Alps near the Austro-Italian border. He was about 46 years old when he met his violent death. Examinations revealed that he had been wounded by an arrow and possibly finished off with a mace blow to the face. That would indicate that Otzi did not simply freeze to death while climbing the high mountains. Evidence shows he was likely a hunter.
Sources: Reuters, Yahoo! News (30 October 2008), Mail Online (31 October 2008)
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