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UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper CXXXV: August 30, 2010, 7:00 p.m.

Spencer Wells, The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey (New York: Random
House, 2002; paperback 2003).
[Thesis. Population genetics demonstrates erectus : "modern humans evolved very
that the ancestors of modern humans recently in Africa" (38). The key is analysis
migrated outside of Africa about 59,000 of the diversity of polymorphisms (39-40).
years ago. The multiregionalist
hypothesis is dead.] Ch. 3: Eve's Mate. The Y chromosome (50
million nucleotide units) is uniquely passed
Dedication. To the author's wife and two through males, as mitochondrial DNA
daughters. (16,000 units) is uniquely passed through
females (41-45). Mathematics of ancestry
Epigraph. Bertolt Brecht, Life of Galileo. (46-48). The early search for polymorphisms
in the Y chromosome was fruitless (48-49).
List of Maps. 3 maps. Development in Luca Cavalli-Sforza's lab at
Stanford in the early 1990s of denaturing
List of Figures. 9 figures. High Pressure Liquid Chromatography
(dHPLC) made it possible to "assay the level
Preface. This book is not about human of genetic diversity in the human species
origins, but about the journey of humanity rapidly and efficiently" (53; 50-53). Wells
out of Africa (xiii-xiv). It was produced at the was coauthor of a 2000 paper showing a
same time as a documentary film project of common male human ancestor in Africa
the same name, but stands alone as a perhaps 59,000 years ago (53-55). "[A]ll
separate and independent work (xiv). It modern humans were in Africa until at least
follows only male lineage (hence the title) 60,000 years ago" (55). The !Xu languageof
(xiv). Overview of book (xiv-xvi). the San (formerly called Bushmen), with 141
phonemes, "strongly suggests . . . a direct
Ch. 1: The Diverse Ape. An imaginary link back to our earliest human ancestors"
equatorial journey shows human diversity (1- (56-57). What our common ancestor might
3). The Darwinian revolution (3-8). How have looked like: "a dark-skinned (although
species is defined is linked to racism (8-10). perhaps not as dark as some Africans today),
Eugenics (10-13). reasonably tall, thin person—perhaps with an
epitcanthic fold" (59). "[A]ll modern human
Ch. 2: E pluribus unum. The discovery of genetic diversity found around the world was
that 85% of human genetic diversity exists in Africa around 60,000 years ago" (59).
even in small populations (14-18).
Population genetics concepts: mutation, Ch. 4: Coasting Away. The strangeness of
selection, genetic drift (18-20). Variation the Australia (61-63). Isotopic decay dating
rule, not the exception (20-22). Cavalli- explained; Carbon-14 is not accurate beyond
Sforza invoked Ockham's razor (parsimony) 40,000 years (64-65). Other techniques
to calculate when populations diverged (22- suggest human settlement of Australia as
24). Emile Zuckerkandl proposes (1965) that long ago as 60,000 years (65-66). In ice
due to variation, DNA molecules are like ages humans may have been forced to live
documents that can be read (24-27). in coastal environments, and migration along
Analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) by a coastal route to the southern coast of Asia
Rebecca Cann of Allan Wilson's lab at UC could plausibly account for humans in
Berkeley in the 1980s according to the Australia (66-70). A man labeled M168 who
principle of parsimony shows that all humans lived 31,000-79,000 years ago "could be
stem from one woman in Africa 150,000- seen as the Eurasian Adam" (71; 70-71).
200,000 years ago, dubbed 'Mitochondrial "[T]he Y-chromosome does provide us with
Eve' (27-33). Other hominid species: the cleanest distillation of human migrational
Neanderthals, Homo erectus, history" (71). Mitochondrial patterns suggest
Australopithecus africanus (33-38). But a female "Eurasian Eve" (L3) around the
Homo sapiens did not descend from Homo same time (71). Other evidence (71-75).
Difficulties in the evidence, perhaps caused
by coastal flooding (75-79). Some speculate 44). It took about 40,000 years for humans
that Australia or south Asia could have been leaving Africa to colonize all the world's
"the main conduit through which the rest of continents (145).
our journey flowed" (80).
Ch. 8: The Importance of Culture.
Ch. 5: Leaps and Bounds. Genetic Polynesian voyages occurred no more than
markers (81). The "Great Leap Forward" 4,000 years ago (146-47). With the end of
theory, according to which one clever child the ice age came agriculture and the
helped a clan establish a radically new kind 'Neolitihic Revolution' (148-51).
of life, perhaps with the beginnings of art Controversies on the relation between
and language, some 50,000-70,000 years agriculture and population genetics: did
ago, perhaps related to the challenge of people, or culture, move? Wells thinks the
climate change (83-90). Genetic variation latter was more important (151-56). But in
indicates that the human population began Asia, migration carried culture (rice
to expand at an exponential rate about cultivation) (156-57). Consequences of
50,000 years ago (90-93). When humans agriculture: resource depletion; large
began to expand through the Levant around population foster diseases; society stratified
40,000 years ago, they were carrying these (158-60). In general, genetic and linguistic
advanced technology and cultural groups are close to one another (160-63).
innovations (93-99). Speculation on the spread of Indo-European
languages (163-70). The search of language
Ch. 6: The Main Line. Relative and origins and affiliations goes on (170-73).
absolute dating of genetic polymorphisms This is a specific example of the general
(100-06). Desssication of the Sahara may problem of cultural diffusion ( 173-74).
have trapped humans in the Middle East Study of the effect of culture (e.g. in
circa 45,000 years ago (M89), then patrilocal [most] vs. matrilocal [e.g. Karen]
proceeding east in two separate branches, to societies) will be a hot area in anthropology
India and south Asia (M20), and north to in coming decades (174-78). Polynesian
central Asia (M45) (106-17). M175, which is voyages were predicated on agricultural
most frequent among Koreans, "unites most mastery, an example of ever-expanding
Asian men living east of the Hindu Kush and choices "that would produce the final Big
Himalayas, defining an east Asian clan" (119; Bang of human evolutionary theory" (180;
118-19). Homo erectus apparently died off 178-80). Master chart of Y-chromosome
or left before this other group arrived (119). markers discussed (181). Master map of the
Movement into east Asia from the south chronology of Y-chromosome lineages
along the coastal route is suggested by M130 around the world (182-83).
chromosomes (120-21).
Ch. 9: The Final Big Bang. Recent human
Ch. 7: Blood from a Stone. Genetic mobility has complicated many genetic
sequences obtained from Neanderthal histories (184-87). Nationalism's effect on
remains (the first hominid ancestor to be language has reduced linguistic diversity,
discovered in 1856) showed that and the same thing may happen to genetic
"Neanderthals represented a local population diversity, so pursuing this research project
of archaic hominids who were later replaced now is important (187-96).
by modern Homo sapiens—with no
detectable admixture"; the common Acknowledgments. Peter Underhill,
human/Neanderthal ancestor was about discoverer of the genetic markers discussed
500,000 years ago (125; 122-25). The M173 in the book; colleagues, assistants, friends,
marker, present in more than 90% of producer, family (197-98).
western European men, appeared about
30,000 years ago (126-30; 132-34). Why Further Reading. Luca Cavilla-Sforza, The
Neanderthals disappeared is uncertain (130- History and Geography of Human Genes
32). Native Americans descend from a very (1994) and Genes, Peoples and Languages
small group from Siberia circa 15,000 years (2000); chapter-by-chapter suggestions; 8
ago (134-40). Linguistic evidence of pp.
indicates a second migration occurred (140-
Index. 11 pp. collecting DNA samples globally from
hundreds of thousands of people to map
About the Author. Spencer Wells was human migration patterns; the project has
born in 1969 and grew up in Texas. His 1994 been denounced as "exploitative and
Ph.D. in population genetics is from Harvard. unethical" by some indigeous peoples'
On a post-doc at Stanford where he worked groups, and a few tribes in North America
with Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Wells began to have refused to participate, but others are
research the genetics of Central Asian participating.]
populations, continuing when he moved to
Oxford in 1999. He has headed the [Critique. A fascinating book written with
population genetics group at Oxford's perspicacity at a fairly high level for the
Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics educated reader. The Journey of Man might
and served as research director for a biotech better have been titled The Journey of Men,
company. In 2001 he turned to freelance but it deserves the laudatory reviews it
writing and film (PBS, Discovery Channel, received. — Wells's expository prose style is
National Geographic), while continuing refreshingly sober and to the point. It
scientific research. He has authored more conveys a sense of the complexity and
than 30 scientific publications and received technical detail involved in his field without
many grants. He lives both in the U.S. and in overwhelming readers with technical detail.
France, where his wife and two children live. — Wells's preference for the understated
leads him avoid the religious, political, and
[Additional information. Spencer Wells philosophical questions that make his
was born on Apr. 6, 1969, in Atlanta. His B.S. discipline a minefield. This is more a
is from the Univ. of Texas at Austin (1988). strength than a weakness of the volume.
He did his Ph.D. work with Richard Lewontin. Nevertheless, in Wells's discussion of causes
He is Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of '56 as "reasons for" and "reason[s] why" [e.g.
Professor at Cornell. In 2006, with the 28] it is hard to say whether the author
support of the National Geographic Society, realizes he is really only describing how
IBM, and the Waitt Family Foundation, he things happen or happened, not why.]
launched the Genographic Project, which is