Cold tolerance among Inuit may come from extinct human relatives

Did you see this? From the NYT: Cold tolerance among Inuit may come from extinct human relatives.

Inuit who live in Greenland experience average temperatures below freezing for at least half of the year. For those who live in the north, subzero temperatures are normal during the coldest months.

Given these frigid conditions, anthropologists have wondered for decades whether the Inuit in Greenland and other parts of the Arctic have unique biological adaptations that help them tolerate the extreme cold.

A new study, published on Wednesday in Molecular Biology and Evolution, identifies gene variants in Inuit who live in Greenland, which may help them adapt to the cold by promoting heat-generating body fat. These variants possibly originated in the Denisovans, a group of archaic humans who, along with Neanderthals, diverged from modern humans about half a million years ago. [continue]

Inuit’s risky mussel harvest under sea ice

Do you ever search for something and find that you get distracted by something else altogether? Here is the ‘something else altogether’ that caught my attention today. From the BBC: Inuit’s risky mussel harvest under sea ice.

The Inuit of Arctic Canada take huge risks to gather mussels in winter. During extreme low tides, they climb beneath the shifting sea ice, but have less than an hour before the water returns.

The 500 people of Kangiqsujuaq, near the Hudson Strait, go to great lengths to add variety to their diet of seal meat, seal meat and yet more seal meat.

This settlement and a neighbouring community on Wakeham Bay are thought to be the only places where people harvest mussels from under the thick blanket of ice that coats the Arctic sea throughout the winter.

The locals can only do this during extreme low tides, when sea ice drops by up to 12m (about 40 feet), opening fissures through which the exposed seabed – and its edible riches – can be glimpsed. The best time to go is when the moon is either full or brand new, as this is when the tide stays out the longest. [continue]

Wow.

Inuit oral stories could solve mystery of Franklin expedition

From the National Post: Inuit oral stories could solve mystery of Franklin expedition.

More than 150 years after the disappearance of the Erebus and Terror — the famously ill-fated ships of the lost Franklin Expedition — fresh clues have emerged that could help solve Canadian history’s most enduring mystery.

A Montreal writer set to publish a book on Inuit oral chronicles from the era of Arctic exploration says she’s gathered a “hitherto unreported” account of a British ship wintering in 1850 in the Royal Geographical Society Islands — a significant distance west of the search targets of several 19th- and 20th-century expeditions that have probed the southern Arctic Ocean for Canada’s most sought-after shipwrecks. [continue]