Travelling in a subway in New York gives us a peek view to different cross sections of the society and people of different ethnic backgrounds on a daily basis. As we take different routes which pass through different enclaves you see people of different ethnicities entering and exiting the automated doors of the compartment. Now talking specifically of Queens and Brooklyn the two boroughs of New York we get to experience the diversity of humanity in all its forms. I myself a New Yorker have seen enough of humanity in its varying genetic diversity in and around New York known for its racial diversity and can confidently say which part of the world a person is from with a fair degree of precision by looking at a person’s facial features or listening to their language and do not suffer from a cross rate effect. The cross-race effect also called cross-race bias, other-race bias or own-race bias refers to the tendency to more easily recognize members of one’s own race. The more you are exposed to cultures apart from your own culture lesser you suffer from the cross race effect.
Talking about the Racial and Genetic diversity of New York my interest in genetics was triggered by a chance program which I stumbled upon on TV channel a few years back which tracks the ancestry of a group of people in a park in Queens New York and the fact that Queens was chosen itself talks for the genetic diversity of the population in Queens. Of course now a days there are variants of this program on TV where famous celebrities are invited and their ancestry revealed through a series of historical data, archives and a combination of DNA testing. But what clues DNA testing provide for one’s ancestry. That’s where things get a bit interesting. Sorry things get a bit technical here and I need to introduce some genetic jargon to take this discussion further.
In human genetics, a human mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup is a haplogroup defined by differences in human mitochondrial DNA. Haplogroups are used to represent the major branch points on the mitochondrial phylogenetic tree. Understanding the evolutionary path of the female lineage has helped population geneticists trace the matrilineal inheritance of modern humans back to human origins in Africa and the subsequent spread around the globe. The letter names of the Haplogroups not just mitochondrial DNA Haplogroups run from A to Z. As Haplogroups were named in the order of their discovery, they do not reflect the actual genetic relationships. The hypothetical woman at the root of all these groups is the matrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA) for all currently living humans. She is commonly called Mitochondrial Eve.
Mitochondrial Eve is the matrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA), in a direct, unbroken, maternal line, of all currently living humans, who is estimated to have lived approximately 100,000–200,000 years ago. This is the most recent woman from whom all living humans today descend, in an unbroken line, on their mother’s side, and through the mothers of those mothers, and so on, back until all lines converge on one person. Because all mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) generally is passed from mother to offspring without recombination, all mtDNA in every living person is directly descended from hers by definition, differing only by the mutations that over generations have occurred in the germ cell mtDNA since the conception of the original “Mitochondrial Eve”.
Having introduced the core genetic language rephrasing it in simple terms, the population throughout the world can be grouped in terms of haplogroups and the people living in specific parts of the world share some common characteristics in terms of the same genetic haplogroup. When we try to make sense of this theory and since mitochondrial Eve can be traced back to Africa and a haplogroup L the geneticists tracked the haplogroup variations though out the planet and came up with a possible explanation that all Population originally originated in Africa and over time migrated to different parts of the world and as they migrated they adapted themselves to the new environments the changes in physical features manifested in their genes as new haplogroups. Since genetics allows us to track the parental haplogroups the pathway of the human migration was mapped following the genetic trail. So that’s how the Out of Africa theory became the Holy Grail and the mother of all migration Theories. Interestingly in addition to this theory there is a viewpoint that the migrating population from Africa first made the Indian Subcontinent their major transit point and the settlers after establishing the Indus valley civilization also called the Vedic civilization branched out to the different parts of the world as corroborated by the similarity of the haplogroups found in populations of Europe and the Indian sub-continent. This Pattern of Human migration backed by Genetic Studies have given enough ammunition for the aficionado of Vedic culture to debunk the Aryan invasion theory.
Understanding The Human migration theory and the genetic trail we tend to see Humanity as a very big family and all the differences so glaring between the races just very superficial when looked form a Human DNA perspective. In the end do not all the religious scriptures point to a common originator of mankind as told in the biblical stories of Adam and Eve. To see it in a different perspective the English word Man, German Word Mannus and the Hindi Word Manushya are all derived from the word Manu the father of Humanity in Hindu Mythology the equivalent of Noah in the Abrahamic literature and of course the great deluge story of Noah of Arc has its equivalent in every culture.