How to Survive a Siberian Winter

Michael Balter, Science Mag, January 28, 2013

Siberia may not be everyone’s idea of a tourist destination, but it has been home to humans for tens of thousands of years. Now a new study of indigenous Siberian peoples presented here [in Cambridge, UK] earlier this month at a meeting on human evolution reveals how natural selection helped people adapt to the frigid north. The findings also show that different living populations adapted in somewhat different ways.

Siberia occupies nearly 10% of Earth’s land mass, but today it’s home to only about 0.5% of the world’s population. This is perhaps not surprising, since January temperatures average as low as -25°C. Geneticists have sampled only a few of the region’s nearly one dozen indigenous groups; some, such as the 2000-member Teleuts, descendants of a once powerful group of horse and cattle breeders also known for their skill in making leather goods, are in danger of disappearing.

Previous research on cold adaptation included two Siberian populations and implicated a couple of related genes. For example, genes called UCP1 and UCP3 tend to be found in more active forms in populations that live in colder climes, according to work published in 2010 by University of Chicago geneticist Anna Di Rienzo and her colleagues. These genes help the body’s fat stores directly produce heat rather than producing chemical energy for muscle movements or brain functions, a process called “nonshivering thermogenesis.”

The new study sampled Siberians much more intensely, including 10 groups that represent nearly all of the region’s native populations. Graduate student Alexia Cardona, a member of Toomas Kivisild’s genetics group at the University of Cambridge, and her colleagues analyzed 200 DNA samples collected by researchers at the Institute of Biological Problems of the North in Magadan, Russia, seeking genes that help humans adapt to the cold. Cardona used several techniques that detect signs of natural selection in the human genome—that is, genes that have been favored by evolution because they helped humans to survive and reproduce. She found three genes. One was UCP1, confirming previous studies. Variants of two new genes, called ENPP7 andPRKG1, also appeared to have undergone positive selection.

These findings make sense, Cardona told attendees at the meeting, Unravelling Human Origins. PRKG1, for example, is involved in the contraction of smooth muscle, key to shivering and the constriction of blood vessels to avoid heat loss. And ENPP7 is implicated in the metabolism of fats, especially those in meat and dairy products—a staple of the fat-laden diets of Arctic peoples.


{snip} Cardona concluded that the study shows how, over the more than 25,000 years that modern humans been lived in Siberia, various peoples have adapted to the region’s cold weather and meaty food sources through selection on multiple genes that control several biological mechanisms.

Cardona noted in her talk that Siberians are considered the source population for all of today’s Native Americans, suggesting that the ancestral Native American genome may also have been cold adapted in these ways. And Siberia was home to earlier kinds of humans too, including Neandertals and the mysterious Denisovans. If found in ancient samples, the adaptations Cardona found in living Homo sapiens’ may provide clues as to how earlier humans were able to occupy such frigid areas.


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  • cecilhenry

    How come Europeans are never considered indigenous in any of their homelands??

    Builders of great civilizations across the Northern hemisphere but having no home.

    This attitude has got to change.

    • dhs

      Because liberals are masters of psychological manipulations. Manipulating language is a subtle and effective way of affecting (and effecting) attitudes. Note the use of the terms “right” and “privilege”: When white men earn something, it is called a privilege. When minorities or women want something, it’s called a right. Opening up America to invasion by many millions of hostile aliens becomes “immigration reform”.

      I’m sure know of many more examples of liberalspeak.

      • zanegray

        “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.—Voltaire”

        • Luis

          As profound today, as it was in Voltaire’s time. And SO TRUE.
          Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, Castro, Mussolini, Yisrael, Muslims, Franco, Chaing kai Shek, the North Korean Kim clan, and now Obama, have all wielded knives against those who critiqued their regimes.

      • Joseph

        I’ve noted perhaps without exception, that when a proposal is accompanied by the phrase “common-sense” (common-sense welfare reform, common-sense gun laws, common-sense immigration policy) it means that there are no supportive data whatever to rationalize the assertion. Same with “fairness”, “justice”, etc. Liberals employ this all of the time.

        • Luis

          In the case of “common-sense” gun laws, the ULTERIOR goal is total gun control. That’s “common sense” to gun grabbers.
          Exactly what are the 20,000-plus gun laws already on the books – devoid of common sense?

      • Non Humans

        Liberals are also masters of “Cranio-Rectal Inversion”.

    • Daisy

      I use the word ‘native’ or ‘indigenous’ european frequently. Liberals have a hard time arguing against such nomenclature as they’ve popularized the words. Unfortunately the mediterranean european people often get offended too, as most southern europeans are a mix of indigenous european and north african peoples. This is why it’s useful to find some abbreviated term for sub-saharan africans. Black people feel they can appropriate the biggest continent on earth for their own agenda. What else is new. The Sahara could have been an ocean in terms of how separating it was of the northern and southern peoples of Africa.

  • potato78

    As is the case for many indigenous groups around the world, native
    peoples of Siberia struggle to fit into the modern global village while
    retaining their ethnic identity and cultural distinctiveness. Since the
    end of World War II, the indigenous peoples of Siberia have had a
    special legal status which allows for certain “affirmative action”-like
    quotas and benefits. However, the main aim of these policies was to
    integrate ethnic minorities into the all-Soviet people and to inculcate
    the “new Soviet man” mentality. Compulsory boarding schools, where
    children from different ethnic groups were brought together from the age
    of seven in a collectivist environment, often served as the hotbed of
    such Sovietization. The effect on native culture was disastrous. But, as
    James Forsyth in his A History of the Peoples of Siberia
    points out, “Russification began even before this, in kindergartens,
    where most nurses and teachers were Russian speakers. Even where some of
    them were natives, however, there were cases when children or the
    nurses themselves were reprimanded for using their native language”
    (here the parallels with Native North American languages are obvious).
    In the Soviet Union, it was believed that minority languages and
    cultures would die out under communism, and that “nationalism can only
    be bourgeois”. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, a number of new laws
    have been adopted whose goal is to preserve ethnic distinctiveness of
    indigenous peoples. But can the tables be turned?


    • I don’t care about mongols

      You’re supposed to use quotation marks when you copy and paste and entire paragraph from someone else as usual…

    • BAW

      And remember, what happened to the Soviet Union CAN happen here!

  • bigone4u

    I just wish somebody would do a study of how blacks were able to adapt to the cold of Detroit. If they had not been able to adapt, that once great city might still be great. Heck, how were they able to adapt from an equatorial climate to any other climate?

    • Jefferson

      How were Blacks able to adapt to the very cold winters of Minnesota ? Cities like Saint Paul and Minneapolis both have a large Black population, percentage wise Blacks are in the double digits in those 2 Minnesota cities.

      • The__Bobster

        Take away the vitamin D enrichment from their food and watch what happens.

        • IstvanIN

          Even more important take away their section 8 housing, food stamps, welfare, and HEAP and see what happens.

      • GDB

        They keep warn by stealing and running from the police

    • Alexandra

      Energy assistance programs. 🙂

  • The__Bobster

    Siberia occupies nearly 10% of Earth’s land mass, but today it’s home to
    only about 0.5% of the world’s population. This is perhaps not
    surprising, since January temperatures average as low as -25°C.

    So the smarter humans decided they didn’t want to freeze their asses off?

    • Alexandra

      Would you want to live in Siberia or the ghetto? 🙂
      I understand Iceland is at least 94% white. I ran a search on its demographics. 94% Norse/Celtic and 6% foreign. Couldn’t find it broken down any further.

      • Luis

        I’d rather be in Siberia, than in Liberia. Or Gary IN, East St. Louis IL, Detroit, Jamaica or Haiti.

        Good point, Alexandra. Take note, Bobster.

      • As far as I have heard of that 6% foreign, they include people from Eastern and Southern Europe, such as Poles, Greeks etc. Iceland’s White percentage is somewhere around 96%-98% (speculation). Non-White minorities are made up of Chinese, Taiwanese and some Africans. Their percentage is very small. Iceland = White heaven.

  • Wim Tise

    ” some, such as the 2000-member Teleuts, …are in danger of disappearing.”

    But how? After all, we are more closely related to strangers than relatives, so as long as there are Africans, “Teleuts” are not in danger. Plus, leftards always tell us that race doesn’t exist, so what is the difference between a Teleut and an African? And according to Jesse “Seig Heil” Jackson, Swedes should not care about going extinct, so why do scientists care about Teleuts going extinct? Isn’t that rethugliKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKan racism?




    • Joseph

      Diversity cures all ills.

  • David Ashton

    So “race” isn’t just “skin deep”, after all?


    Likely Denisovan genes aided this just as Neanderthal genes aided adaption to the temperate environment.

  • Alexandra

    My son could probably do well. When he was a baby, he could be in just a diaper, have the fan blowing directly on him, and he wouldn’t want a blanket.
    We supposedly have Cherokee ancestry too, on my mother’s side. I’ve been told that one can look at my eyes and see it. But it’s no more than about 3% of my ancestry, and of course my son would have half that, since my husband is of Irish, German, and Welsh descent.
    I consider 80 degrees to be too hot. I lived in Michigan (Detroit) my first 20 years, and Ohio for the past 20. I cannot stand hot, humid weather.

  • potato78

    Welcome to the coldest village on Earth where the temperature can
    hit -71.2C, mobiles don’t work… but homes still have outside toilets

    Read more:

    • StillModerated

      Russia Today always includes Oymyakon in its weather forecasts. And the picture of the blue-eyed girl — WOW!

  • Doppleganger

    Asian eyes are shaped the way they are because of epicanthic folds, which aside from hair is one of the few noticeable anatomic adaptions to cold climates among humans.