Why are Eskimos shaped like that? A recent study of Eskimo genetics shows that they got some adaptations of fat tissue differentiation and body fat distribution that makes them better at living in the cold parts of the world from a kind of extinct humans called the Denisovans. (1) The Denisovans went extinct about 40,000 years ago and they were more closely related to the Neanderthal humans than to modern humans. The fact that we have some Neanderthal genes and Denisovan genes means that whenever ancient humans came in contact with each other they had sex. They didn’t always just kill each other.
By studying the genes of modern Inuit Eskimos from Greenland these investigators found 2 genes called TBX15 and WARS2 located on chromosome 1 that they got from the Denisovan people. These gene variants are related to some of the Eskimos’ adaptations to life in the arctic. These variants of TBX15 and WARS2 are unique to Eskimos but other variations and other genes near them are related to waist-hip ratio and fat distributions in Europeans. Their comparative analysis found that these genes also allow Inuits to have more brown fat, which specialize in making heat, unlike white fat. These particular gene forms are nearly unknown in Africa and relatively rare throughout Europe and most of Asia, but are very common in Inuits and other Native Americans.
The Neanderthals and Denisovans were taller and more muscular and generally better equipped at living in cold climes than modern humans. Previous research strongly suggests humanity’s Denisovan inheritance also includes a boosted immune system and alterations in skin color. Another gene called EPAS1 that Tibetans got from the Denisovans makes them better able to live at high-latitude-low oxygen pressures.
This makes me want to take some courses in genetics.
John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- email@example.com or phone-354-6605.
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