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Concept: Siberia


Evenks and Evens, Tungusic-speaking reindeer herders and hunter-gatherers, are spread over a wide area of northern Asia, whereas their linguistic relatives the Udegey, sedentary fishermen and hunter-gatherers, are settled to the south of the lower Amur River. The prehistory and relationships of these Tungusic peoples are as yet poorly investigated, especially with respect to their interactions with neighbouring populations. In this study, we analyse over 500 complete mtDNA genome sequences from nine different Evenk and even subgroups as well as their geographic neighbours from Siberia and their linguistic relatives the Udegey from the Amur-Ussuri region in order to investigate the prehistory of the Tungusic populations. These data are supplemented with analyses of Y-chromosomal haplogroups and STR haplotypes in the Evenks, Evens, and neighbouring Siberian populations. We demonstrate that whereas the North Tungusic Evenks and Evens show evidence of shared ancestry both in the maternal and in the paternal line, this signal has been attenuated by genetic drift and differential gene flow with neighbouring populations, with isolation by distance further shaping the maternal genepool of the Evens. The Udegey, in contrast, appear quite divergent from their linguistic relatives in the maternal line, with a mtDNA haplogroup composition characteristic of populations of the Amur-Ussuri region. Nevertheless, they show affinities with the Evenks, indicating that they might be the result of admixture between local Amur-Ussuri populations and Tungusic populations from the north.

Concepts: DNA, Population genetics, Asia, Russia, Reindeer, Siberia, Evenks, Ethnic groups in Russia


Although Siberia was inhabited by modern humans at an early stage, there is still debate over whether it remained habitable during the extreme cold of the Last Glacial Maximum or whether it was subsequently repopulated by peoples with recent shared ancestry. Previous studies of the genetic history of Siberian populations were hampered by the extensive admixture that appears to have taken place among these populations, since commonly used methods assume a tree-like population history and at most single admixture events. Here we analyze geogenetic maps and use other approaches to distinguish the effects of shared ancestry from prehistoric migrations and contact, and develop a new method based on the covariance of ancestry components, to investigate the potentially complex admixture history. We furthermore adapt a previously devised method of admixture dating for use with multiple events of gene flow, and apply these methods to whole-genome genotype data from over 500 individuals belonging to 20 different Siberian ethnolinguistic groups. The results of these analyses indicate that there have been multiple layers of admixture detectable in most of the Siberian populations, with considerable differences in the admixture histories of individual populations. Furthermore, most of the populations of Siberia included here, even those settled far to the north, appear to have a southern origin, with the northward expansions of different populations possibly being driven partly by the advent of pastoralism, especially reindeer domestication. These newly developed methods to analyse multiple admixture events should aid in the investigation of similarly complex population histories elsewhere.

Concepts: Human, Human migration, Pleistocene, Last Glacial Maximum, Last glacial period, Glacial period, Reindeer, Siberia


Species of the genus Moina Baird (Cladocera: Moinidae) often dominate freshwater crustacean communities in temporary water bodies. Several species of Moina are used as food for fish larvae in aquaculture, as bioindicators in toxicological studies, and as common subjects for physiological studies. The aim of this paper is to estimate biodiversity of Moina in northern Eurasia using the standard DNA barcoding approach based on the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene. We analysed 160 newly obtained and 157 existing COI sequences, and found evidence for 21 phylogroups of Moina, some of which were detected here for the first time. Our study confirmed the opinion that the actual species diversity of cladocerans is several times higher than is presently accepted. Our results also indicated that Moina has the second richest species diversity among the cladoceran genera (with only Daphnia O. F. Mueller having a greater diversity of species). Our study strongly supports division of Moina into two faunistic groups: European-Western Siberian and Eastern Siberian-Far Eastern, with a transitional zone at the Yenisey River basin (Eastern Siberia). Here, we refrain from taxonomic descriptions of new species, as this requires a thorough morphological and taxonomic study for each putative taxon.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Species, Crustacean, Branchiopoda, Cladocera, Daphnia, Siberia, Krasnoyarsk


The burial of terrestrial organic carbon (terrOC) in marine sediments contributes to the regulation of atmospheric CO2on geological timescales and may mitigate positive feedback to present-day climate warming. However, the fate of terrOC in marine settings is debated, with uncertainties regarding its degradation during transport. Here, we employ compound-specific radiocarbon analyses of terrestrial biomarkers to determine cross-shelf transport times. For the World’s largest marginal sea, the East Siberian Arctic shelf, transport requires 3600 ± 300 years for the 600 km from the Lena River to the Laptev Sea shelf edge. TerrOC was reduced by ~85% during transit resulting in a degradation rate constant of 2.4 ± 0.6 kyr-1. Hence, terrOC degradation during cross-shelf transport constitutes a carbon source to the atmosphere over millennial time. For the contemporary carbon cycle on the other hand, slow terrOC degradation brings considerable attenuation of the decadal-centennial permafrost carbon-climate feedback caused by global warming.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Earth, Carbon, Ocean, Global warming, Siberia, Lena River, Laptev Sea


Whole, fertile plants of Silene stenophylla Ledeb. (Caryophyllaceae) have been uniquely regenerated from maternal, immature fruit tissue of Late Pleistocene age using in vitro tissue culture and clonal micropropagation. The fruits were excavated in northeastern Siberia from fossil squirrel burrows buried at a depth of 38 m in undisturbed and never thawed Late Pleistocene permafrost sediments with a temperature of -7 °C. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating showed fruits to be 31,800 ± 300 y old. The total γ-radiation dose accumulated by the fruits during this time was calculated as 0.07 kGy; this is the maximal reported dose after which tissues remain viable and seeds still germinate. Regenerated plants were brought to flowering and fruiting and they set viable seeds. At present, plants of S. stenophylla are the most ancient, viable, multicellular, living organisms. Morphophysiological studies comparing regenerated and extant plants obtained from modern seeds of the same species in the same region revealed that they were distinct phenotypes of S. stenophylla. The first generation cultivated from seeds obtained from regenerated plants progressed through all developmental stages and had the same morphological features as parent plants. The investigation showed high cryoresistance of plant placental tissue in permafrost. This natural cryopreservation of plant tissue over many thousands of years demonstrates a role for permafrost as a depository for an ancient gene pool, i.e., preexisting life, which hypothetically has long since vanished from the earth’s surface, a potential source of ancient germplasm, and a laboratory for the study of rates of microevolution.

Concepts: Species, Plant, Fruit, Seed, Nut, Pleistocene, Siberia, Permafrost


The timing of the seasonal freeze-thaw cycle of arctic lakes affects ecological processes and land-atmosphere energy fluxes. We carried out detailed ice-phenology mapping of arctic lakes, based on daily surface-reflectance time series for 2000-2013 from MODIS at 250 m spatial resolution. We used over 13,300 lakes, area >1 km(2), in five study areas distributed evenly across the circumpolar Arctic - the first such phenological dataset. All areas showed significant trends towards an earlier break-up, stronger than previously reported. The mean shift in break-up start ranged from -0.10 days/year (Northern Europe) to -1.05 days/year (central Siberia); the shift in break-up end was between -0.14 and -0.72 days/year. Finally, we explored the effect of temperature on break-up timing and compared results among study areas. The 0 °C isotherm shows the strongest relationship (r = 0.56-0.81) in all study areas. If the trend in early break-up continues, rapidly changing ice phenology will likely generate significant, arctic-wide impacts.

Concepts: Statistics, Trend, Norway, Arctic Ocean, Arctic, Weathering, Siberia, Phenology


Fire-induced permafrost degradation is well documented in boreal forests, but the role of fires in initiating thermokarst development in Arctic tundra is less well understood. Here we show that Arctic tundra fires may induce widespread thaw subsidence of permafrost terrain in the first seven years following the disturbance. Quantitative analysis of airborne LiDAR data acquired two and seven years post-fire, detected permafrost thaw subsidence across 34% of the burned tundra area studied, compared to less than 1% in similar undisturbed, ice-rich tundra terrain units. The variability in thermokarst development appears to be influenced by the interaction of tundra fire burn severity and near-surface, ground-ice content. Subsidence was greatest in severely burned, ice-rich upland terrain (yedoma), accounting for ~50% of the detected subsidence, despite representing only 30% of the fire disturbed study area. Microtopography increased by 340% in this terrain unit as a result of ice wedge degradation. Increases in the frequency, magnitude, and severity of tundra fires will contribute to future thermokarst development and associated landscape change in Arctic tundra regions.

Concepts: Climate, Köppen climate classification, Russia, Taiga, Tundra, Siberia, LIDAR, Permafrost


The aim of our study is to investigate the spatial distribution of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (p,p'-DDT) and its metabolites, α- and γ-isomers of hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) in 155 samples of human milk (HM) from Eastern Siberia (six towns and seven villages in Irkutsk Region, one village of the Republic of Buryatia and one town in Zabaikal'sk Region, Russia), and to examine the dietary and social factors influencing the human exposure to the organochlorines. The median and range of the concentration of six indicator PCBs in HM in 14 localities in Eastern Siberia (114 (19-655) ng g(-1) lipids respectively) are similar to levels in the majority of European countries. However, in one village, Onguren, the median and range of levels of six indicator PCBs (1390 (300-3725) ng g(-1) lipids) were comparable to levels measured in highly contaminated populations. The Lake Baikal seals are highly exposed to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and could be a potential source of PCB and DDT exposure in the Onguren cohort via the consumption of the Lake Baikal seal tissue. The location of food production in areas exposed to the emissions of local POP sources can also significantly influence POP levels in HM samples from industrialized areas. Estimated daily intakes (EDI) of HCH and HCB for infants are considerably lower or close to acceptable daily intake (ADI). The EDI of total DDTs and total PCBs are higher than ADI.

Concepts: Polychlorinated biphenyl, Russia, Siberia, Lake Baikal, Baikal Seal, Buryatia, Irkutsk Oblast, Buryats


The Turkic peoples represent a diverse collection of ethnic groups defined by the Turkic languages. These groups have dispersed across a vast area, including Siberia, Northwest China, Central Asia, East Europe, the Caucasus, Anatolia, the Middle East, and Afghanistan. The origin and early dispersal history of the Turkic peoples is disputed, with candidates for their ancient homeland ranging from the Transcaspian steppe to Manchuria in Northeast Asia. Previous genetic studies have not identified a clear-cut unifying genetic signal for the Turkic peoples, which lends support for language replacement rather than demic diffusion as the model for the Turkic language’s expansion. We addressed the genetic origin of 373 individuals from 22 Turkic-speaking populations, representing their current geographic range, by analyzing genome-wide high-density genotype data. In agreement with the elite dominance model of language expansion most of the Turkic peoples studied genetically resemble their geographic neighbors. However, western Turkic peoples sampled across West Eurasia shared an excess of long chromosomal tracts that are identical by descent (IBD) with populations from present-day South Siberia and Mongolia (SSM), an area where historians center a series of early Turkic and non-Turkic steppe polities. While SSM matching IBD tracts (> 1cM) are also observed in non-Turkic populations, Turkic peoples demonstrate a higher percentage of such tracts (p-values ≤ 0.01) compared to their non-Turkic neighbors. Finally, we used the ALDER method and inferred admixture dates (~9th-17th centuries) that overlap with the Turkic migrations of the 5th-16th centuries. Thus, our results indicate historical admixture among Turkic peoples, and the recent shared ancestry with modern populations in SSM supports one of the hypothesized homelands for their nomadic Turkic and related Mongolic ancestors.

Concepts: Europe, Asia, Turkey, Russia, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Siberia, Turkic peoples


The Kets, an ethnic group in the Yenisei River basin, Russia, are considered the last nomadic hunter-gatherers of Siberia, and Ket language has no transparent affiliation with any language family. We investigated connections between the Kets and Siberian and North American populations, with emphasis on the Mal'ta and Paleo-Eskimo ancient genomes, using original data from 46 unrelated samples of Kets and 42 samples of their neighboring ethnic groups (Uralic-speaking Nganasans, Enets, and Selkups). We genotyped over 130,000 autosomal SNPs, identified mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal haplogroups, and performed high-coverage genome sequencing of two Ket individuals. We established that Nganasans, Kets, Selkups, and Yukaghirs form a cluster of populations most closely related to Paleo-Eskimos in Siberia (not considering indigenous populations of Chukotka and Kamchatka). Kets are closely related to modern Selkups and to some Bronze and Iron Age populations of the Altai region, with all these groups sharing a high degree of Mal'ta ancestry. Implications of these findings for the linguistic hypothesis uniting Ket and Na-Dene languages into a language macrofamily are discussed.

Concepts: Ethnic group, Indigenous peoples, Siberia, Eurasian nomads, Ob River, Ket people, Yenisei River, Ket language