2009 -2012 DNA RESULTS DISCUSSED
by Lloyd Pye
Between 2009 and 2012 the Starchild Project gratefully accepted the help of a geneticist in the USA, who offered to do what roughly amounted to a "mini" DNA test on the Starchild Skull. The results are preliminary and unverified (this DNA has only been recovered once when it needs to be recovered dozens of times for positive proof), but they included DNA that did not match anything in the NIH databse, and evidence of genes that, if verified, are so radically different from human that even the harshest skeptic would have not choice but to declare the Skull "not human".
For 13 years we at the Starchild Project have suspected the Starchild Skull came from a being that was not entirely human, if human at all. It shares few physical characteristics with a normal human skull, has a different elemental signature, and contains fibers and residue inside the bone that should not be present in a human. Unfortunately, these astounding divergences from the norm never impressed mainstream scientists because they could, and often did, glibly explain all of them away by insisting: Nature can do anything! But that was never true.
Nature actually functions by strict rules that confine life to well-defined boundaries outlined by the unique genetic code of each species. No laws are more firmly established than the laws of genetics. Fifty eye-witnesses can say that a person committed a crime, but if DNA shows otherwise, the witnesses are ignored. DNA dominates in courts because it is the math of biology. It says what it says, again and again, with consistency you can stake your life on.
Within that life-and-death consistency, the human genome does contain slight variations. Tiny Pygmies and tall Watusis are black Africans with stark physical differences, yet both tribes are unmistakably human. Differences in their genetic makeup make it impossible for two Pygmies to produce a Watusi, and vice-versa. Yet DNA can flex enough so that if one of each tribe were to mate, they could produce viable offspring, although the flexibility does not go beyond certain points. Something is either human, or it isn't. There is no in-between.
Because genetics is the math of biology, the Starchild's DNA provided the only means to overcome the mainstream explanation that it has to be a one-in-a-billion freak of Nature. Unfortunately, we had to wait nearly a decade while the technology for recovering and sequencing "ancient" DNA, such as the 900-year-old Starchild's, could be perfected.
Now such new technology has been in place for a few years, and its initial extraordinarily high cost has fallen within the reach of reasonable investment. Also, we now have enough partial analyses of the Starchild's DNA to know without doubt that when we can afford a complete inventory of its genome, it will prove to be radically different from humans.
This essay is designed to make the most crucial information about those partial analyses understandable to anyone. If you can take the 15 minutes needed to read it, you will learn about the three kinds of partial DNA proofs we now have, what each one means, and why they will help the Starchild make history on a scale that seldom occurs in human lifetimes.
From New Scientist, Feb. 7, 2011 [text in brackets added]:
Fossils of the Denisovans, [a new extinct hominin and] close relative of Neanderthals, were discovered in Siberia in 2008. A draft genome was released in 2010 by Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, which revealed that Denisovans interbred with modern humans. However, each position in the genome was read only twice, so the fine detail was unreliable. The new genome covers each position 30 times over [so the fine detail is now highly reliable].
To understand the Starchild Skull's unique situation, the short paragraph above must be understood. In 2010, the Max Planck laboratory secured two "reads" (short for readings) through what are called "next generation" sequencing machines. That means they made the first announcement of a draft assembly of the Denisova genome with the average depth of coverage being around two. Each assembly includes thousands to millions of individual readings, and the depth of coverage indicates how many times each reading is repeated.
The draft data would have included gaps that remained in certain areas of coverage in the entire genome, so while the result would be highly indicative (the reason they announced it), the gaps would make it basically unreliable. This is always the case when data are obtained with "next generation" sequencing methodologies. However, conducting many reads closes nearly all of the gaps, and ultimately provides a very high level of certainty for the results.
With the Starchild Skull, the partial results obtained by our geneticist at the DNA lab we work with are every bit as reliable, and as compelling, as those from Max Planck. He uses the same analytical techniques, and his results are what theirs are—partial but compelling. And, like the geneticists at Max Planck, to put our geneticist's results beyond all doubt, he has to complete them at least 30 times over, to the same extraordinary level of certainty.
To understand what our geneticist has accomplished so far, let's start with nuclear DNA (nuDNA). It is found inside the nuclei of nearly all of the trillions of cells in human bodies (everything other than red blood cells and sex cells). It contains genetic material provided by our parents when our mother's egg is fertilized by our father's sperm. In humans, it produces a genome made up of over 3 billion base pairs comprised of what are called nucleotides.
An even stronger indication of this came later, when four fragments were recovered from the Starchild's mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is found in tiny parcels floating like raisins in pudding within the cytoplasm between any cell's nucleus and its outer wall. MtDNA is passed along to all generations through the female line, in her much larger egg. Males do not contribute to mtDNA because sperm contain only the male's genomic package, nothing else.
In the illustration above, the four different nucleotides are distinguished by their chemical bases—Cytosine with Guanine, and Thymine with Adenine. Working together while always matched to each other, they form the base pair "steps" of the "ladder" that is DNA. The 3+ billion base pairs of the sprawling nuclear DNA genome contain hundreds of thousands of mutations called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, or SNPs. Among those hundreds of thousands, over 4,000 are known to be associated with genetic diseases or disorders.
In any cell's nucleus, most of its DNA is considered non-coding, non-functioning, or, as it is widely known, junk. As much as 95% of the nuDNA genome is considered junk because it doesn't produce any of the proteins our bodies need to survive. Our cells seem to do all of their normal housekeeping and functioning using only 5% of our nuclear DNA genome. However, 5% of 3 billion is 150 million, so apparently that is enough to accomplish the myriad biochemical tasks required to keep our bodies functioning as they should.
Nobody understands why our bodies need so much junk DNA. What we do know is that during every cell division, our bodies faithfully reproduce all of our nuDNA, including the junk, which means our bodies treat it as vital, so it must be considered highly conserved. (In this sense, the term "conserved" means "protected from change; not easily transformed.")
From the Starchild's nuDNA genome, our geneticist recovered and sequenced several dozen fragments that totaled well over 30,000 base pairs (bp). Though seemingly a large number, it is a woefully small percentage of the 3+ billion bp total (.001%). Nonetheless, those several dozen fragments tell a compelling story about the Starchild Skull's DNA.
Our geneticist sent those unknown genetic sequences to be compared with millions of sequences contained in the massive database at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Maryland. That database is extremely comprehensive, covering the accumulated genomes of thousands of different organisms—from mammals to reptiles to crustaceans to bacteria.
When comparing the Starchild's sequences, the search parameter ranged from an exact match of the entire base pair string, to matches that were similar to any segment of any fragment. Using these exceptionally broad criteria, many Starchild fragments could be matched to genetic sequences in the NIH database. Some of those were comparable to human sequences, which meant they were human-like, though not necessarily human.
Below are the results of two short DNA sequences recovered from the Starchild Skull, and the result given when those sequences were input into BLAST (the National Institutes of Health DNA identification tool). It is important to stress that these results are only preliminary and require extensive verification and repetition before they should be considered positive proof.
Starchild DNA - No Match
What is unusual, and shockingly so, is that there are segments of many other fragments of the Starchild's nuDNA for which no close matches could be found in the NIH database!
This is not unheard of, nor impossible, but it is a significant indicator that something about the Starchild is not entirely human.
Starchild DNA - Human Match
The human genome has large numbers of corollaries in the world around us. Humans share 97% of our genes with chimps, 95% with gorillas, 70% with rats, 65% with mice, and 26% with yeast! Thus, nearly everything on Earth is, in some way, genetically interrelated with humans, so it is not unusual that some of the Starchild's nuDNA is found to be human-like.
In sharp contrast, the mtDNA genome is vastly smaller and much more tightly packed, and it contains a very specific number of base pairs: 16,569, compared to the 3+ billion in nuDNA.
All DNA is equally susceptible to mutations, which are malformations or irregularities in the arrangement of coding regions that prevent them from functioning properly. Mutations can occur at any time and at any point in nuDNA or mtDNA. The large amount found in nuDNA (hundreds of thousands of SNPs) is there because so little of it (5%) actually works to keep our bodies running. Mutations can steadily accumulate in the 95% called junk because their impact in non-coding regions seldom causes adverse impacts for those who develop them, and thus they can be—and in most cases are—passed on to succeeding generations.
In mtDNA, the exact opposite is true. Nearly all of mtDNA (98% or more) functions at a very high level of efficiency. Thus, if a mutation occurs in the working part, there is a very high likelihood its impact will be averse to the point of causing death, and therefore will not be passed to subsequent generations. In short, mutations in mtDNA tend to be eliminated from the population by the death of the individual in whom it occurs. This makes the DNA in mitochondria extremely highly conserved, which means it changes very little over time.
Among the 16,569 base pairs in each mtDNA genome, a maximum of only 120 vary between all humans. The 120 maximum is found in descendants of the first humans, who originated in southern Africa around 200,000 years ago. The rest of us carry fewer mutations because our ancestors did not develop until well after the first humans appeared.
No matter how many I carry, or you carry, all are found in the 2% of mtDNA that is not absolutely essential to the processes of our lives that they manage. This is why so few variations exist in mtDNA. Though physically quite small, the proper functioning of the mitochondria is essential to life, so permanent mutations must occur in nonessential areas.
In terms of this all-important mtDNA in the Starchild, our geneticist has recovered four reasonably large fragments which together total 1,583 base pairs, or 9.55% of the 16,569 base pair total for humans. As before, this is only a partial result, but also as before, it is highly indicative of what the final result of a full mtDNA genome analysis will be.
Within those 1,583 base pairs, the Starchild carries a grand total of 93 variations that are different from the extremely highly conserved human mtDNA genome. That is 93 in only 9.5% of the genome! It's already near to the maximum of 120 variations in human mtDNA. If we do a simple but highly reliable mathematical extrapolation, expanding the 9.5% out to 100% (times 10.5) we find that 93 established variations extrapolates out to 977 variations!
Remember, the maximum of variations in human mtDNA is 120. Neanderthals carry 200. The new hominins, Denisovans, carry 385. The Starchild extrapolates to 977! However, we must be clear about what that 977 means. During the course of repeated mtDNA sequencing, a high probability exists that several of the variations found will not hold up as valid. Some are likely to be established as errors. Because of that likelihood, let's be overly conservative and err well on the side of caution. Let's say the Starchild's mtDNA will fall in the range of 800 to 1000 variations. Compare that range to the human 120. What does it mean?
Based on this partial mtDNA recovery result, which must be repeated many times before it can be considered fully reliable, the Starchild Skull is not from a human being. We will no doubt hear arguments from mainstream scientists insisting it is some new kind of humanoid being, but it would have to be an exceptionally variant humanoid, something far away from Neanderthals and Denisovans, something nearly as genetically different from humans as chimps, which have 1,500 of those mtDNA variations compared to our 120 maximum.
To resolve the debate that will swirl around the Starchild's genetic status, its full genome will have to be compared with the human genome, the Neanderthal genome, the Denisovan genome, and, for good measure, chimps and gorillas, and other higher primates. Ultimately, a determination will be made, for good or ill, like it or not, no matter how inconvenient the result might be. But before we get to that point, we have to meet a new player in the game.