Friday, 21 June 2013

Snail genes reveal human migration to Ireland

A genetic similarity between snail fossils found in Ireland and the Eastern Pyrenees suggests humans migrated from southern Europe to Ireland 8,000 years ago.

The slimy creatures in Ireland today are almost identical to snails in Southern France and Northern Spain.

Whether an accidental visitor on a ship or brought along as a snack, the boat they were carried on did not appear to stop in Britain.

The findings are published in PLOS One.

As Britain emerged from the end of the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago, sea levels rose and landslides are thought to have triggered a great tsunami. Britain was transformed into an island, separated from mainland Europe and Ireland.

The intriguing implication is that the genetics of snails might shed light on a very old human migration event,” Dr Angus Davison University of Nottingham

Land-dwelling animals were therefore no longer able to migrate from Europe over the seas without a little help.

It has long perplexed scientists that Ireland has plants and animals that are genetically different, and in some cases are even unique, to ones found in Britain.

Now scientists have found that a common garden snail, Cepaea nemoralis, is almost genetically identical to one found in the Eastern Pyrenees, but seems to have missed Britain on its journey over.

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