Monday, April 30, 2012

My Cousin Otzi: A Story Written in DNA

   There has been a lot in the news lately about Cousin Otzi.   They talk about the fact that he had brown eyes, was lactose intolerant, was suffering from Lyme disease and that he was murdered.  What they don’t talk about was that he liked long walks along the glacier, a nice goat steak every once in a while and that he would give the pelt off his back for a friend.

   As soon as the world learned that they were going to test Otzi’s DNA the conjecture began.  Most folk assumed that Otzi would be part of haplogroup I (one of the earliest groups in Europe) or R1b (the largest genetic group in Western Europe).

   Europe is dominated by haplogroups I1, I2, R1a and R1b.  The rest of the landscape has a scattering of E, G, J and N.

   Otzi’s Y-DNA haplogroup was leaked late last year and confirmed two days ago as G2a2b (formerly G2a4).  My haplogroup is G2a3b.  This means that Otzi and I share a common G2a ancestor.

   G2a2b, G2a3b and G2a are subgroups of G.  Every time a new mutation within a haplogroup is identified a subgroup gets created or expanded.  Here is an example of a long R1b subgroup - R1b1a2a1a1b.

   While Otzi’s haplotype hasn’t been published yet, I did review a number of G2a2b records with the same L91+ mutation.  I ran an MRCA (most recent common ancestor) between my data and this group of Otzi-like folk and a conservative estimate makes our connection about 7,200 years ago.  I can picture our ancestor, and at least two of his sons, sitting around a fire somewhere along the Danube River.

   I look forward to getting to know Cousin Otzi better.

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