The naked years

By Razib Khan | September 9, 2010 4:19 am

manchangeWhen I talk about sexual selection I usually make sure to have an accompanying visual of a peacock to go with the post. But really I could have used a dandy as an illustration, or perhaps in our day & age “The Situation”. Unlike the peacock much of what passes for human “plumage” is not a result of native biological processes, but rather refashioning the materials of other organisms or synthetics into a sort of second skin (or skins with all our layers). In other words, clothes. These artificialities are so essential to our own identity as individuals that they often mark out our tribal affiliations, in pre-modern and post-modern contexts. Whole industries exist to cater to both our utilitarian needs and aesthetic sensibilities in regards to how we dress ourselves. The definition of a cyborg usually connotes a synthesis of biological with electronic. Perhaps that is because our artificial extensions in the form of clothes have seamlessly merged with our self-images, to the point where it would be ludicrous to perceive ourselves as merged entities. If you encountered many of your acquaintances or friends naked not only would embarrassment ensue, but I suspect one might initially not recognize them. A naked physique without distinctive aspects of clothing one associates with someone strips away individual identity.

ResearchBlogging.orgBut clothing has not been the eternal condition of man, recall that Eve met the fig leaf after an unfortunate sequence of events. In all likelihood our common ancestor with bonobos and chimpanzees were predominantly hirsute, as are most mammals. A mammal without fur is like a fish without scales and birds without feathers. Not impossible, but atypical. But at some point we did lose our fur. When? A 2004 paper offered up an intriguing possibility, that ~1.2 million years ago our lineage became hairless. How did they come to this inference? The authors noted that the consensus sequence of the MC1R locus in humans among dark skinned peoples  coalesced back to this period (i.e., the last common ancestor of the MC1R genes which exhibit the ancestral type, which confers dark skin). Once our ancestors lost their fur then they would have been exposed to solar radiation, and so the necessity of dark skin. When did this naked dark ape cover his shame? (yes, I censored one of the images above to make this post “work safe” above the fold) A new paper in Molecular Biology & Evolution offers up a precise date using another proxy, Origin of clothing lice indicates early clothing use by anatomically modern humans in Africa:

Clothing use is an important modern behavior that contributed to the successful expansion of humans into higher latitudes and cold climates. Previous research suggests that clothing use originated anywhere between 40,000 and 3 million years ago, though there is little direct archaeological, fossil, or genetic evidence to support more specific estimates. Since clothing lice evolved from head louse ancestors once humans adopted clothing, dating the emergence of clothing lice may provide more specific estimates of the origin of clothing use. Here, we use a Bayesian coalescent modeling approach to estimate that clothing lice diverged from head louse ancestors at least by 83,000 and possibly as early as 170,000 years ago. Our analysis suggests that the use of clothing likely originated with anatomically modern humans in Africa and reinforces a broad trend of modern human developments in Africa during the Middle to Late Pleistocene.

The evolution-by-lice method has some pretty simple logic behind it. Our parasitic lice have followed us across our journeys. In this case there are two forms being spotlighted, one of the head, and another of the clothes. The genesis of the latter can give us a clue as to the period of time when our species began to be obligate clothed. One presumes that the head lice were the ancestral form, and that the clothing lice derived from them (the head lice took refuge there after we lost our fur). Standard phylogenetic methods which are applied across a range of taxa can then be turned to these two lice populations. When the clothing lice diverge from the ancestral line of head lice it stands to reason that humans must have been wearing clothing. A species which emerges to fill a niche, must have a niche to fill. Eventually the authors arrive at a figure of ~170,000 years before present.

To get from here to there, they looked at four loci: three nuclear genes, 18S rRNA, nuclear elongation factor 1-α (EF-1α), and RNA polymerase II (RPII), and the mitochondrial gene cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI). In the age of SNP-chips with hundreds of thousands of markers this may seem paltry, but the questions are far coarser in this case. The authors weren’t looking to generate PCA plots showing the relationship of various disparate head lice lineages or anything so fine-grained. Rather, they were focusing on the speciation of the two lineages from a common ancestor, an archaic head lice population. This is a picture which can be painted in broad strokes, concretely, four genetic strokes.

They found that the ancestral lice went through some sort of bottleneck, likely mirroring their hosts. That was followed by a demographic expansion. Again, mirroring the hosts. Surprisingly the gene flow seems to have gone predominantly from the clothing lice to the head lice! Previous studies using a set of different markers, specifically microsatellites, did not find that the two populations evidenced gene flow after their separation. Additionally, as noted the direction of gene flow is somewhat surprising as the clothing lice population clearly derive from the head lice. This peculiarity makes me think of Sewall Wright’s shifting balance model, whereby population structure and historical events are critical in shaping contingent arcs of evolution.

Figure 1 illustrates their model in the context of prior data:
lice1

Using the genetic data, a Bayesian coalescent model with assumptions of migration, population structure and mutation rates, they generated a distribution of the probable time when head and clothing lice went their (generally) separate ways. The gray line follows the arc of the distribution, with ~83,000 years before present as the mode, and ~170,000 years before the present as the median. Such a probability density distribution seems to imply that clothing lice lineages which we have today emerged at least before the expansion of modern humans out of Africa. As anatomically modern humans emerged ~200,000 years ago in Africa there is a strong probability that clothing in Africa dates back to the archaic lineages.

If the paper cited above in regards to MC1R coalescence is valid, these results indicate a period of “naked years” between the loss off fur by H. erectus (I believe H. ergaster in Africa), and the adoption of clothing by modern humans or some archaic group. The authors correctly note that they can not rule out that other human lineages, such as Neandertals, wore clothing and had their own lice lineages. Despite the evidence of Neandertal admixture, it seems that the lice results are in alignment with the mtDNA, and imply total replacement. Just as Gallo-Roman nobles began donning Frankish trousers perhaps the Neandertals assimilated into modern human bands tossed aside their barbaric capes and took up the clothes of civilized folk with vaulted arches.

Despite their claims of more sophisticated methodology we probably should be a touch cautious about these results. Some of the findings are weird (the gene flow from clothing to head lice) and conflict with earlier work (finding gene flow in the first place). The parallels between lice & men in terms of evolutionary history are both striking and suggestive, but lice are lice, and they may have their own wily ways. And let’s not forget the pubic lice, which tell a different set of stories.

Citation: Melissa A. Toups, Andrew Kitchen, Jessica E. Light, & David L. Reed (2010). Origin of clothing lice indicates early clothing use by anatomically modern humans in Africa Mol. Biol. Evol. : doi:10.1093/molbev/msq234

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Dienekes to the paper pointer.

Image Credit: Wikimedia – Australopithecus & Kemal Ataturk, Anthropologyinfo.com – H. erectus

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Anthroplogy, Genetics, Human Evolution
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  • chris y

    If clothing lice are derived from head lice rather than pubic lice, does this suggest anything about the early use of clothing, such as that it might have been used to shade the head and upper body rather than to support or disguise the genitalia, which is the minimal clothing requirement in most modern societies?

  • bioIgnoramus

    Could man have adopted clothes because he was moving from living in rift valleys or beside lakes, up into the mountains of East Africa? Shivery spots, mountains.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #3, the authors allude to climatic change is a possible driver of this shift. but this seems more of a necessary, not sufficient condition.

  • Gary

    Another good title for this post might have been “Of Lice and Men”.

  • Katharine

    When, one supposes, did the meaning of clothing shift to conceal the genitalia, if clothing originally had a different purpose?

    What spurred the adoption of clothing, anyway? Although I suspect clothing itself had a sort of evolution from simple skins and things to provide a measure of self-protection from claws or sun or rain or something to that effect.

    What kind of conditions, also, might spur perhaps another species to adopt clothing? Certainly they’d have to have enough brainpower to realize that they could fashion their own self-protection from elsewhere instead of having to grow their own and they’d have to have the motor skills and body architecture to do so, but what environmental conditions might spur a population to adopt clothing ?

  • http://facebook.com/doclonglegs Andrew S.

    So I open my RSS feed today, and I see those three pictures, in that order, lined up beside that headline, and I choke on Diet Pepsi.

    That is all.

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  • madoglan

    My question is why did you put one of the leaders of a nation,near monkey,or apes whatever.

    My advice to understand it clearly,put your photo so we can understand nothing ever changed till apes.

    Unrespectful idiot.

  • http://sds.com ata

    hey selam ben berna.
    atamızı maymunun yanına neden koydun pis doğulu herif?
    it s very very rude. .

  • mehmet

    Why did you used the photo of Ataturk? Because you didn’t had any leader who wore modern dresses in Pakistan?
    Don’t be so pathetic!

  • http://www.geyikler.net Onur AKSU

    son of a bitch!!!

  • http://inci.szlukspot.com ccc inci fucker ccc

    fuck your all of data. fuck your idea, fuck your information.

  • inci

    Listen motherfucker,you cant put our national leader’s photo near apes,this is unrespectful behavior,and we won’t let that unpunished.

    If you want to know who we are,type google : “incisiker”,then you’ll see our names and our pride.
    So do your job,and change the goddamn picture and put someone elses photo,not our leader.

  • Turk

    Mr,
    Do you aware of you’ve been using a photo of the founder of Turkey?
    And do you think this revilement will not be punished?
    I would like to inform you the answar is “NO”.
    razib khan or whatever, from pakistan, from a country that we’re helping for the flood disaster. is that your appreciation? Seems you’ve forgotten who’d deigned your lifes.

    razib khan, I’m sincerely informing and underlining that will not be forgotten, also your name too.

    If you like take it as a threat, because it is.

    Turk.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    so i’m posting some of the “english” language comments from turks. in case you want some amusement.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    also, try google translate (cut & paste the text, it’s in a frame so it won’t do it automatically):

    http://www.eksisozluk.com/show.asp?t=discover+dergisinden+atat%C3%BCrk'e+b%C3%BCy%C3%BCk+hakaret

  • http://facebook.com/doclonglegs Andrew S.

    Oh jeez.

  • Daniel I.

    It’s sad to see so many ‘unrespectful’ comments. I would have thought that the readers of this blog would be an educated lot, but it seems that the education of some have been replaced by pathetic fanaticism and nationalistic pride.

    I thought the picture conveyed the meaning of your post quite well. If you put a picture of me there I wouldn’t be offended either.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    It’s sad to see so many ‘unrespectful’ comments. I would have thought that the readers of this blog would be an educated lot, but it seems that the education of some have been replaced by pathetic fanaticism and nationalistic pride.

    those aren’t normal readers, but came in through a turkish message board of some sort. when people get a bee in their bonnet on a topic it isn’t unusual to have that sort of influx, but i rarely publish it on this website (e.g., if i say something that dismisses creationists i often get angry creationists trying to leave comments). i decided to publish because 1) the comments were kind of funny in their artless english 2) it is interesting to see how a very minor perceived offense set people off. nice that i live in the USA.

  • uwrik

    well, even though i couldn’t care less, i think there is some sort of a right to those “unrespectful” comments. yes, the convey of photos might be a good representation for your article and/or argument, however that representation -or representation of representation in this particular case-, intentionally put together or not, stands apt to be misperceived so to speak. i couldn’t for some reason think of you, putting obama over there, even though it is nice that you live in the USA. snide remarks do not necessarily legitimize your actions, but also can make your stance look awry.

  • Ela Ela

    i cant believe.. how you can using a photo of the founder of Turkey?
    its terrible… feel “respect” and remove it! PLEASE!!!!

  • SirSatai

    Why did not you use your father’s photo? İt would fit better , i think so. When i look your countrie’s last years all i see a group of rigid muslem messing around. Turkiye has got a very important role of your country. Read your history little boy. We know people like you. We got plenty of them at Turkiye. Believe me we dont give a piece of shit idiots like you.

  • nazlı

    first of all may be we are not able to speak english as you. but we have soul and we respect all of the leaders so we will never humiliate any of them like you did. If you dare to write a blog you had better research more not to offend someone. we are sensitive about our leader this is not racism or fanaticism…

  • Ahmet

    I don’t see any insult here.

    Ataturk’s photo just used to show modern people.

    But i think , Khan is very uneducated people, who doesn’t recognise Atatürk.

  • BarbarIus

    İ didnt know the writer before i read at eksizölük.So i want to see the writing.İ think he is thinking that Atatürk has very modern and well dressed.He use his photo for the modern human beings,the last point of us.I m proud of that.thanks

  • Fixxer

    Pakistani evolution… and his super genes. Super mind, prospective Nobel winner. God bless you boy..

  • Murtaza

    “arda, do you know what colloquial english is?” (razib khan)

    “so i’m posting some of the “english” language comments from turks. in case you want some amusement.” (razib khan)

    ” i decided to publish because 1) the comments were kind of funny in their artless english” (razib khan)

    you know english very well, razib… you are great!!! first of all, we should learn “colloquial” english, then we may post our comments. yes, it is the only way against a scientist who knows english very well. you are genius!!

    get a hat on your top and take your photo. then put it next to apes. come on, you are scientist, you can do that. i want to see the transition from furry Australopithecus, to hairless H. erectus, to brillant razib khan.

    loves from turkey, where people trying to help your own country, pakistan.

  • Katharine

    lulz, disgruntled creobot Turks don’t even understand the context of the image.

  • onur

    I am not sure whether they are all or mostly creobots. They might just be Kemalists, a significant proportion of whom are atheist and Darwinist.

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  • KD

    You really never know what will piss people off. It’s curious that the objections are about placing the clothed gentleman next to the early human ancestors, and not about the use of the image in a post about lice. It really doesn’t appear that many of the critics have actually read the post (per usual). The responses are typical of creationist thinking in many ways — “let’s all react en masse and make lots of noise without fully understanding what we’re protesting.”

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    i think many of my critics can’t really read english, but put their turkish comments through google translate. so all they saw was the image.

  • onur

    creationist thinking in many ways

    If they were Islamist, I could agree with you. But apparently they are more Kemalist/nationalist types than anything else, so creationism probably isn’t the issue.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    i’ve had turkish creationist commenters before, they have a different flavor, so i think onur is correct. i think it’s interesting though that readers’ expectation is that these are creationists. it indicates the importance of background expectations in shaping how we evaluate data. in the USA the sort of vociferous secular nationalism which exists in turkey (and many nations frankly) is very thin on the ground, so we don’t have a “box” to place them in.

  • Tom (formerly “Explanation”)

    And I presume these are the secular elites or at least upper middle class and educated Turks who claim to be so much like Europeans? I wonder if there is a European population with members who would react so strongly to a photo of a leader next to less developed primates.

    But I don’t know how sharp the line is between the more religious and less religious or if secularists are the same group as the less religious. Seems like people might react this way if they are used to unanimous support of Ataturk by the people around them.

    Also interesting that they see you as South Asian from a fellow Muslim country and not as American. Perhaps if this were posted by a more traditional kind of American, they would not have felt the right to criticize so much. Or would it have been worse?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Also interesting that they see you as South Asian from a fellow Muslim country and not as American. Perhaps if this were posted by a more traditional kind of American, they would not have felt the right to criticize so much. Or would it have been worse?

    well, that’s normal for non-americans, and even many americans (anyone who is a baby boomer or older really seems to have a hard time seeing people who are not black or white as american in the same way they are). european readers who are likely conventionally multicult have had some weird confused and quizzical reactions to my self-identification with the west. the power of blut is strong.

    re: turkey and south asians, etc. there is a somewhat mentor-mentee relationship between turks and pakistan. musharaf was a big fan of ataturk. and pakistani sunni islam was mediated through turkic speaking elites (both are hanafi). then there’s probably the natural racial superiority which most “white” middle easterners feel toward “black” south asians. muslim south asians are often proud of and exaggerate their turco-persian ancestry because of perceived superior beauty, sophistication and islamic authenticity of the latter. hindu south asians also make up exogenous west asian ancestry even, and multiple kashmiri pandits (hindu brahmins from kashmir) have elaborated on their peoples’ relationship to those of persia to me. so it seems kind of unfair to blame the turks here for implicit racialist sentiment when i believe many south asians have internalized the same.

    also, pakistan is a very fucked up country. turkey is a paradise in comparison to that barbaric cesspit. so i can’t blame them for going there either.

    of course, i have very low standards for most of humanity :-)

  • onur

    And I presume these are the secular elites or at least upper middle class and educated Turks who claim to be so much like Europeans? I wonder if there is a European population with members who would react so strongly to a photo of a leader next to less developed primates.

    As a Turk living in Turkey, I think they are secular people (like almost all Kemalists). And I also think that they are middle class Turks (not necessarily upper middle class), and even if educated, they certainly aren’t educated in high standards (looking at their English and level of thinking).

  • onur

    Razib, it is interesting that they think you are Pakistani. I guess they – or the Turkish sources that informed them about you – came to that conclusion purely by looking at your photo and name. Bangladeshi, Indian, Sri Lankan, Nepalese and Indian Ocean Muslims do not so immediately come to mind when seeing a South Asian with a Muslim name and surname.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    onur, my name is more common in pakistan than in bangladesh. and i have a generic south asian look. i don’t take any offense as the confusion as i don’t consider myself strongly tied to any south asian nationality. if i had been born 10 years earlier i would have been pakistani at birth after all.

  • onur

    i would have been pakistani at birth after all

    but a Bengali Pakistani

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    but a Bengali Pakistani

    the modifier is not special, as all citizens of the current state of pakistan have subnational identities too. punjabi pakistani, sindhi pakistani, etc. though as a practical matter i would have been subject to a somewhat different level of racism and discrimination because bengalis were viewed as inferior to all the peoples of west pakistan.

  • onur

    It doesn’t matter under which nationality you would have been at birth. What matters is what your people (=Bengalis) have as a nationality today. So even if you had been born Pakistani and arrived the USA as Pakistani, you would be seen as a part of the Bangladeshi nationality today.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    onur, sure. the only qualification you should add is that ~40% of bengalis live in india and are citizens of india. so bengaliness is not sufficient. the fact that i was born in that nation, or that my parents were, would be important (i know that some of my great-grandparents come from outside of the borders of modern day bangladesh fwiw).

  • onur

    the only qualification you should add is that ~40% of bengalis live in india and are citizens of india. so bengaliness is not sufficient. the fact that i was born in that nation, or that my parents were, would be important

    Of course. I meant East Bengalis when I was saying Bengali above.

    i know that some of my great-grandparents come from outside of the borders of modern day bangladesh fwiw

    I guess they were Bengalis from what is now West Bengal, India.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Of course. I meant East Bengalis when I said Bengali there.

    just keep in mind that bengalis from western bangladesh share more with bengalis from across the border in india than they do with bangladeshis from the east near tripura. the east vs. west bengali ethnic distinction is pure modern politics, the really relevant subethnic identity is by district/region and religion. so i am a “comilla person,” a region bordering the state of tripura (in fact, my maternal grandmother lived in tripura as a small child).

    I guess they are Bengalis from West Bengal, India.

    no. he was from what is today uttar pradesh, and not an ethnic bengali. though i have others recent ancestors from west bengal and assam too, though these were ethnic bengalis so i don’t count them as notable.

  • onur

    the really relevant subethnic identity is by district/region and religion

    Just as in Turks and almost all ethnicities. Though tribal ethnic and sub-ethnic groups of the world have additionally a tribe category.

  • onur

    he was from what is today uttar pradesh, and not an ethnic bengali. though i have others recent ancestors from west bengal and assam too, though these were ethnic bengalis so i don’t count them as notable.

    So it seems you are a “pure” Muslim Bengali in your known past except one of your ancestors (a Muslim – ethnicity of whom I don’t know – from Uttar Pradesh).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    onur, don’t know about turks, but local identities in germany might be a good analogy. the west vs. east german distinction is new and artificial. identity as swabians, saxons, bavarians is the real marker.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    no, my paternal grandmother was born a hindu. her father converted when she was a toddler. my paternal grandfather also comes from a mixed background (he did not have any bengali names, and did not give his children any, which is not the norm among bengali muslims). i’ve done a runs-of-homozygosity, and i don’t have much. also, my maternal grandfather’s family was hindu recent enough that they retained their hindu caste name and knew their origin. not sure how atypical this sort of background is for south asians. the reich et al. paper implied a lot of subethnic structure and inbreeding.

  • onur

    Are all of those Hindu ancestors of yours you mention ethnic Bengalis or are there people from other ethnic groups among them?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    are you constructing my genealogical tree? :-) they’re bengalis. the only non-bengali ancestors i know of were muslim, or converted to islam but were never hindu (have a distant han chinese ancestor supposedly).

  • onur

    have a distant han chinese ancestor supposedly

    That is very interesting. A Muslim ancestor from Uttar Pradesh who supposedly has Muslim Han Chinese (Hui?) ancestors, really interesting indeed.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    fyi, my vague understanding is that the individual was han. converted to islam in south asia. he was a merchant who couldn’t make it back for whatever reason, and just assimilated.

  • onur

    As you have begun to get tired of my endless questions, I plan to make this my last comment about your genealogy. :D

    So my conclusion is, your known ancestors are all Bengalis from various regions of north east South Asia – and some of them non-Muslim (Hindu in their case) until recent generations btw – except one non-Bengali (I don’t know from which ethnicity) Muslim distant ancestor from Uttar Pradesh, who has a distant Han Chinese ancestor who came to Uttar Pradesh as a merchant, converted to Islam there and married a local Muslim woman. Are these all correct?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    yes. the only qualification is that from physical appearance and cultural folkways there is a strong assumption that my paternal lineage has a non-bengali component. also, my mother’s maternal grandfather from UP, he was a hindi speaker. so probably not an ethnic punjabi.

  • onur

    he was a hindi speaker

    Very logical. Hindi is the ideal language to adopt in Uttar Pradesh for a Han Chinese foreigner.

    from physical appearance and cultural folkways there is a strong assumption that my paternal lineage has a non-bengali component

    You once said that your father has a slightly Mongoloid appearance on his face or something like that, so you are referring to that I guess. As your Han Chinese ancestor is from your mother’s side (I also think he is too distant to have any effect on your physical appearance btw), Mongoloid genes of your father’s side are probably from Burmese people (small numbers of whom live in Bangladesh and north east India btw).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    onur, many eastern bengalis have clear burmese ancestry. and yes, i assume i have a fair amount. i am genetically closer to a half burmese/half indian woman i’m sharing genes with on 23andme than i am with most south asians. a bangladeshi i’m sharing genes with has a clear east asian Y chromosomal lineage.

  • onur

    The most plausible conclusion should be that the non-Bengali component in your paternal side is from a relatively recent (however unknown) Burmese ancestry.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    also, you might be curious to know that the chakma tribal people of bangladesh, who are theravada buddhists with a burmese origin, generally speak bengali now and no longer their ancestral tibeto-burman dialect. i assume that recent assimilation of these people would occur if they converted to islam, or switched to a hindu identity (i once met a hindu woman from bangladesh who didn’t even look south asian, but rather burmese. but she was ethnic bengali). i believe that the way my more mongolian looking ancestors became bengali was just to convert to islam.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    The most plausible conclusion should be that the non-Bengali component in your paternal side is from a relatively recent Burmese ancestry.

    i agree. my paternal grandmother, by origin a hindu, did not look east asian at all, but typically south asian. my paternal grandfather died before i was born, but all claim he looked “foreign” (i have no photographs, and must infer his appearance from my father and his brothers and sisters). for what it’s worth, i resemble him the most out of my grandparents reputedly, and have been told by a friend from singapore that in that nation i’d probably be assumed to be malay due to my appearance.

  • onur

    the way my more mongolian looking ancestors became bengali was just to convert to islam

    Yes. I think Islam and Christianity are generally more suitable for ethnic assimilation than Hinduism (after all, they have no caste system).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    I think Islam and Christianity are generally more suitable for ethnic assimilation than Hinduism (after all, they have no caste system).

    an easy way to test this in east bengal would be to do a STRUCTURE analysis of muslims and hindus. though even west bengalis and assamese have a lot of recent burmese ancestry, so i’m not sure. the ahom kings of assam who defended that region’s hindu culture from the mughals were originally tibeto-burman. also, there are several mongolian groups in northeast india who have shifted to a hindu identity. the main issue is that *individual* converts to islam and christianity have an easier go of it probably than hinduism. but in the past it seems likely that most religious change happened communally in south asia.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    also, many of the hindus of nepal have clear mongoloid admixture too.

  • onur

    Yes. I was actually referring more to relatively recent times when talking about assimilation and religion. And yes, STRUCTURE-like tests would be great tools to test such assumptions.

  • onur

    and pakistani sunni islam was mediated through turkic speaking elites (both are hanafi)

    I think the special relationship (I think it isn’t a mentor-mentee relationship, but a relationship of equals) between Turkey and Pakistan is to do with the good relationship (including significant monetary grants) between the founders of the Turkish Republic (including Atatürk) and some influential Muslim groups from what is now Pakistan and nearby Indian territories during the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923), rather than anyhing else. If the special relationship was to do with the Turkic speaking elites of the South Asia of the past, we would see a similar special relationship between Turkey and Bangladesh, but it isn’t the case to my knowledge.

  • onur

    many of the hindus of nepal have clear mongoloid admixture too

    In their case, from Tibetans.

  • onur

    have been told by a friend from singapore that in that nation i’d probably be assumed to be malay due to my appearance

    I think that is an exaggeration. When I looked at your photos, I have always seen clearly a South Asian and nothing else right from the beginning (and I didn’t know anything about your nationality, ethnicity, place of birth, places of origin, mother tongue, etc. at first).

  • onur

    I also watched some of your videos, and there too you looked nothing but typical South Asian to me.

  • Drogba

    I think Onur is right. There is no visible trace of mongoloid in Razib. He looks fully Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi to me, not Malay or anything else. Of course that doesn’t exclude the possibility that one of his grandparents may have had some mongoloid ancestry.

  • onur

    I should also add that I too thought that you are a Pakistani before learning that you are from Bangladesh. The fact that the first country and often the only country that comes to mind when seeing your photo and name is Pakistan is a clear indication that you are physically a typical South Asian and nothing else.

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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