Mitochondrial DNA and modern data

I mentioned previously how pleasing it is to see old ideas coming back to life with new data. I really like it. Back a decade or two ago we were restricted to mitochondrias from domestic animals to predict human demography (as for ancient DNA). Today the situation is very different. It is a little bit scary to know that all that old stuff we (the older aDNA generation) did is now being tested against better data, but it is also fun, and exciting. As was the case of the Neandertal replacement.


Back in 2005 we published what appeared to be African haplotypes in Bronze Age Iberian cattle, and concluded that the most parsimonious explanation was contacts across the Straits of Gibraltar intense enough to bring cattle from one continent to another. I like it when I see that Gonz’alez-Fortes et al. test exactly the idea of prehistoric geneflow over Gibraltar (or at least from Africa to Europe) with much better data and methods than we had access to, and our old interpretation still holds. (Extra fun since there is a little bit of Stockholm in this paper, with David Diez.) Domestic mitochondrial DNA was never ideal for inferring human demography, but it was what we had, and surprisingly often we were able to do a lot with it.

The Straits of Gibraltar