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Cocos Seamount

5 November 2022
Genetics, Geology

Australia has two marine parks on the Indian Ocean side of the continent. One is based around the Cocos, or Keeling, islands. Australia’s  National Science Agency, CSIRO, has surveyed and mapped the sea below the islands. They sit on top of a huge seamount, rising 4800 feet out of the sea floor. The Cocos are actually twin peaks of a massive seamount which presumably has a tectonic origin. On the flanks of the seamount are volcanic cones, misshapen ridges, and rugged canyons, and evidence of sand sediment that has fallen on the abyssal ocean floor. See https://phys.org/news/2022-11-ancient-submerged-volcanoes-bristle-sea.html

Meanwhile, there is another mystery brewing – on the peopling of the Americas. At https://phys.org/news/2022-11-ancient-dna-analysis-early-peopling.html  … and the full article is at https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2022.1078  … ancient DNA sheds some light on the peopling of the Americas. A few years ago they were confident all Mesoamericans were interrelated people that had crossed the Bering land bridge at the end of the last Ice Age. This was in spite of the fact that depictions of some tribes of South America, from the 19th century, looked remarkably like Australasians. Early genetic results, admittedly from a small sample set, contradicted the idea, and it was temporarily shut down. A new study seems to revive it. The study  opens the debate once again as the new genetic evidence is actually questioning if South America was fully peopled by way of the Bering land bridge and a route down the coastline of North and Central America. Or did some of them arrive by a different route.

Firstly, they did find evidence of a migration route southwards, along the Pacific coast, and also, a route northwards along the Atlantic coast. In spite of that, they also found what they say is strong evidence of an Australasian component of the ancient population of South America – and Central America. This imprint is absent from North America. Does this mean the Australasian people arrived by another route via the Pacific Ocean. Was it perhaps back in a time when the earth’s oceans had a different symmetry as a result of a geoid that interrupted the equatorial bulge? One needs to look at a map of the Pacific showing known land masses not far below the surface. Looking at one such map a route cannot be determined – but did they come via the Bering Strait? This might still be a possibility as the lack of Australasians in North America may be explained by other means. Die-off for example. The study also found evidence of an even older connection – the genetic survival of Neanderthals and Denisovans. The Denisovan admixture must have occurred as far back as 40,000 years ago, we are told. That date again. The Laschamp Event. Denisovans were first genetically isolated from a finger bone found in a Siberian cave. Hence, it is possible Denisovans, and Neanderthals may have been able to migrate into the Americas. It is more likely their genes were inherited by people that did migrate to the Americas. Australasians, from Australia, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, for example, also have a Denisovan genetic connection.

The research used a larger and more diverse number of skeletons, most of which were surprisingly recent.

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