Bryan Sykes

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Bryan Sykes (born 9 September 1947) is a Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Wolfson College.

Sykes published the first report on retrieving DNA from ancient bone (Nature, 1989). Sykes has been involved in a number of high-profile cases dealing with ancient DNA, including those of Ötzi the Iceman and Cheddar Man, and others concerning people claiming to be members of the Romanovs, the Russian royal family. His work also suggested a Florida accountant by the name of Tom Robinson was a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, a claim that was subsequently disproved.[1][2][3][4]

Sykes is best known outside the community of geneticists for his bestselling books on the investigation of human history and prehistory through studies of mitochondrial DNA. He is also the founder of Oxford Ancestors, a genealogical DNA testing firm.

Blood of the Isles[edit]

In his 2006 book Blood of the Isles (published in the United States and Canada as Saxons, Vikings and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland), Sykes examines British genetic "clans". He presents evidence from mitochondrial DNA, inherited by both sexes from their mothers, and the Y chromosome, inherited by men from their fathers, for the following points:

  • The genetic makeup of Britain and Ireland is overwhelmingly what it has been since the Neolithic period and to a very considerable extent since the Mesolithic period, especially in the female line, i.e. those people, who in time would become identified as British Celts (culturally speaking), but who (genetically speaking) should more properly be called Cro-Magnon.[citation needed] In continental Europe, this same Cro-Magnon genetic legacy gave rise to the Basques. But "Basque" and "Celt" are cultural designations, not genetic ones.[citation needed]
  • The contribution of the Celts of Central Europe to the genetic makeup of Britain and Ireland was minimal; most of the genetic contribution to the British Isles of those we think of as Celtic, came from western continental Europe, i.e. the Atlantic seaboard.
  • The Picts were not a separate people: the genetic makeup of the formerly Pictish areas of Scotland shows no significant differences from the general profile of the rest of Britain. The two "Pictland" regions are Tayside and Grampian.
  • The Anglo-Saxons are supposed, by some, to have made a substantial contribution to the genetic makeup of England, but in Sykes's opinion it was under 20 percent of the total, even in Southern England.
  • The Vikings (Danes and Norwegians) also made a substantial contribution, which is concentrated in central, northern and eastern England - the territories of the ancient Danelaw. There is a very heavy Viking contribution in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, in the vicinity of 40 percent. Women as well as men contributed substantially in all these areas, showing that the Vikings engaged in large-scale settlement.
  • The Norman contribution was extremely small, on the order of 2 percent.
  • There are only sparse traces of the Roman occupation, almost all in Southern England.
  • In spite of all these later contributions, the genetic makeup of the British Isles remains overwhelmingly what it was in the Neolithic: a mixture of the first Mesolithic inhabitants with Neolithic settlers who came by sea from Iberia and ultimately from the eastern Mediterranean.
  • There is a difference between the genetic histories of men and women in Britain and Ireland. The matrilineages show a mixture of original Mesolithic inhabitants and later Neolithic arrivals from Iberia, whereas the patrilineages are much more strongly correlated with Iberia. This suggests (though Sykes does not emphasize this point) replacement of much of the original male population by new arrivals with a more powerful social organization.
  • There is evidence for a "Genghis Khan effect", whereby some male lineages in ancient times were much more successful than others in leaving large numbers of descendants; e.g. Niall of the Nine Hostages in 4th and 5th century Ireland and Somerled in 12th century Scotland.

Some quotations from the book follow. (Note that Sykes uses the terms "Celts" and "Picts" to designate the pre-Roman inhabitants of the Isles who spoke Celtic and does not mean the people known as Celts in central Europe.)

Japanese clans[edit]

Sykes is currently using the same methods he used in The Seven Daughters of Eve to identify the nine "clan mothers" of Japanese ancestry, "all different from the seven European equivalents."[8]

Hominid samples[edit]

Dr. Brian Sykes and his team at Oxford University carried out DNA analysis of presumed Yeti samples and thinks the samples may have come from a hybrid species of bear produced from a mating between a brown bear and a polar bear. Sykes told BBC News:

He conducted another similar survey in 2014, this time examining samples attributed not just to yeti but also to Bigfoot and other "anomalous primates." The study concluded that two of the 30 samples tested most closely resembled the genome of the palaeolithic polar bear, and that the other 28 were from living mammals.[11]

The samples were subsequently re-analysed by Ceiridwen Edwards and Ross Barnett. They concluded that the mutation that had led to the match with a polar bear was in fact a damage artefact, and suggested that the two hair samples were in fact from Himalayan brown bears (U. arctos isabellinus). These bears are known in Nepal as Dzu-the (a Nepalese term meaning cattle-bear), and have been associated with the myth of the yeti.[12][13] Sykes and Melton acknowledged that their GenBank search was in error and but suggested that the hairs were instead a match to a modern polar bear specimen "from the Diomede Islands in the Bering Sea reported in the same paper”. They maintained that they did not see any sign of damage in their sequences and commented that they had “no reason to doubt the accuracy of these two sequences any more than the other 28 presented in the paper”.[14]

Works[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Tom Robinson (16 June 2006), Genghis Khan or Not? That is the Question (Internet Archive version)., Self published, retrieved 31 January 2013 
  2. ^ Matching Genghis Khan, familytreedna.com, retrieved 3 June 2008 [dead link]
  3. ^ Henderson, Mark (30 May 2006), How I am related to Genghis Khan, London: The Times, retrieved 2010-04-27 
  4. ^ Nicholas Wade. Falling from Genghis's family tree New York Times, 21 June 2006. Accessed 31 January 2013.
  5. ^ Sykes 2006, pp. 280–281
  6. ^ Sykes 2006, pp. 281–282
  7. ^ Sykes 2006, pp. 283–284
  8. ^ Japanese women seek their ancestral roots in Oxford by Tessa Holland, 25 June 2006, Kyodo News
  9. ^ Staff (17 October 2013). "British scientist 'solves' mystery of Himalayan yetis". BBC News. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  10. ^ Lawless, Jill (17 October 2013). "DNA Links Mysterious Yeti To Ancient Polar Bear". AP News. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  11. ^ Sykes, B. C.; Mullis, R. A.; Hagenmuller, C.; Melton, T. W.; Sartori, M. (2 July 2014). "Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti, bigfoot and other anomalous primates". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281 (1789): 20140161–20140161. doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.0161. 
  12. ^ Edwards CJ, Barnett R. 2015. Himalayan ‘yeti’ DNA: polar bear or DNA degradation? A comment on ‘Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti’ by Sykes et al. (2014). Proc. R. Soc. B 282: 20141712.
  13. ^ McKenzie S. Scientists challenge "abominable snowman" DNA results. BBC News Highlands and Islands, 17 December 2014.
  14. ^ Melton TW, Sartori M, Sykes BC. 2015 Response to Edward and Barnett. Proc. R. Soc. B 282: 20142434.

External links[edit]