2011 MITOCHONDRIAL DNA (mtDNA) RESULT DISCUSSED
By Lloyd Pye
In 2011 the geneticist working on the Starchild Skull discovered that the sections recovered from its mtDNA (the part of DNA passed only through the maternal line) were radically different from human DNA.
The maximum number of mtDNA differences between all humans is 120. The Starchild Skull has between 800-1,000. This is a partial result, but if it is verified it is clear proof: the Skull's mtDNA is not human.
All humans have two types of DNA:
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) that is passed down only from the mother and is very similar in all of us because it is essential nuts-and-bolts instructions for how cells work, and Nuclear DNA (nuDNA) that is passed down from both parents and is the part that makes us the unique individuals that we are.
Base pairs (bp) are the "steps" in the double-helix "ladder" of DNA. The human nuDNA genome has more than 3 billion bp, but the mtDNA genome has exactly 16,569 bp.
In 2010, about 30,000 bp of the Starchild's nuclear DNA fragments were sequenced with incredible results. In 2011, four fragments of Starchild mtDNA were sequenced, totaling 1,583 bp (approx. 9.5% of its mtDNA genome). We are all familiar with the term "junk DNA", which is currently believed to make up a large part of the nuDNA genome. In contrast, the mtDNA genome has no junk at all, simply because it is the blueprint for mitochondria, an essential part of cells that we cannot live without. Any embryo conceived with a mutation in the mtDNA they would not survive long enough to even be born, so it is near impossible to end up with mutations in the gene pool.
Geneticists have been able to utilize the extreme rarity of mtDNA mutations to create a "biological clock" that dates humanity's origin—the time we became a distinct species—to about 200,000 years ago. During those 200,000 years we have gradually but steadily accumulated a maximum of 120 variations in our mtDNA. The oldest humans (natives of South Africa) have the most (up to 120), and later human types have fewer and fewer.
In the samy way people have different blood types, our DNA has been divided into 33 subunits known as haplogroups (shown right) based on our 120 mtDNA variation. Those 33 are derived from seven ancient females whom geneticists calculate were the founding matriarchs of our species [related in the book The Seven Daughters of Eve by Dr. Bryan Sykes, 2001]. Thus, every variation between every haplogroup is well known and chronicled, and every human belongs to one of the 33 haplogroups listed below.
The chart (right) shows how mtDNA is analyzed. At the top is the Cambridge Reference Sequence (CRS), the mtDNA pattern arbitrarily chosen from one individual to provide the human value baseline. Variations from the CRS establish the count of differences in all related species. Among the 33 human haplogroups, no individual has more than 120 differences.
At the chart's bottom are Neanderthal mtDNA and mtDNA from two samples from Denisovans. Denisovans are a new species discovered in Siberia in 2010 when a finger bone and molar from what seemed to be Neanderthal remains were routinely analyzed. To everyone's astonishment, the mtDNA in both of the samples produced 385 differences from the human CRS—185 more than Neanderthals (whose 200 differences are only 80 more than the human maximum of 120).
With so many undeniable differences, and because mtDNA is so highly conserved and unerringly precise, geneticists had no choice but to classify Denisovans as an entirely new prehuman species closely related to humans and Neanderthals. [For comparison, the chimpanzee mtDNA genome contains 1500 differences from the human CRS.]
ABOVE: mtDNA Haplogroups
LEFT: Maximum number of differences in mtDNA from Human CRS
BELOW: Starchild Skull mtDNA compared to Human CRS
Now we will consider one of the four fragments of Starchild Skull mtDNA that has been sequenced, the smallest of the four at 167 base pairs. To the right, it is compared to the human CRS, base pair to base pair.
The blue bars show the differences in base pairs between the Starchild fragment (top line—167) and the corresponding segment of the CRS (bottom line—1269). This 72 bp part has 11 differences. In the non-enlarged parts are 95 bp with 6 more differences, for an astounding total of 17 differences between the Starchild and the human CRS.
The chart below covers the segment of the human CRS that corresponds to the 167 bp segment sequenced from the Starchild. It extends from #1265 to #1432 (out of the CRS's full compliment of 16,569). At this scale it is difficult to read, but it shows that among the 33 human haplogroups, those 167 bp have only one difference among all types of humans! [Three aqua lines highlight the differences: the first two lines are for differences in both of the Denisovan samples, and the third is for one difference in the Neanderthal and in one human haplogroup (HPT L1b) compared to the CRS.]
This stretch of mtDNA is one of the most extremely conserved in the entire genome, with only one difference among the 33 human haplogroups, one in Neanderthal, and two in Denisova. Yet, somehow, the Starchild mtDNA (see arrow at bottom of chart below) carries within itself 16 additional differences. Even if multiple repetitions of this analysis should reveal that a few of its recorded differences were due to machine error or to human error, which can happen, the final total will still be mind-boggling!.
If a human fetus were conceived with only one or two differences in an area of mtDNA Nature keeps so rigidly intact, it would abort spontaneously. Yet the Starchild grew to full term and aged enough to grind down the enamel of its adult-like teeth. Also, several experts have agreed the Skull belonged to an adult. This is convincing evidence that the Starchild was born, and lived its life, considerably different from any typical human.
Now recall that all four Starchild mtDNA fragments add up to 1,583 base pairs, which is 9.5% of what we assume will be a total mtDNA genome in the 16,600 ± range. Among the 1583 bp are 93 differences, which extrapolate to a shocking total of 976 differences!
[To extrapolate 9.5% out to 100%, divide 100 by 9.5 to get 10.5; then,10.5 x 93 = 976.]
Extrapolating a partial result for nuDNA usually provides only a rough estimate of what the actual total might be, but with mtDNA we can be certain that extrapolating a nearly 10% result is dependably reliable. Why? Because the machines that sequence and analyze the results of that sequencing have become remarkably accurate. However, reading errors can and do occur, so that has to be taken into account. Assume 80 of the 93 are ultimately confirmed, leaving a total of 840 rather than 976. That is 720 more than any human on Earth could tolerate.
Errors or not, we can be supremely confident that the confirmed total of the Starchild's differences will fall between 800 and 1000 bp, while all humans are 120 or less. Using the most effective techniques science can bring to bear to solve any problem of genetic heritage, techniques that are used with finality in court cases worldwide, the Starchild is shown to be nowhere near the ballpark of human or prehuman. This result is definitive.
Without doubt, without question, without fail, recovering both of the Starchild's entire genomes will prove it to be so astonishingly far from humans that the only reasonable, logical conclusion will be that it is NOT human.