Iceman May Have No Living Relatives

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"His lineage actually diverged from its nearest modern relatives about 20,000 years ago, by the looks of it," Richards said.

The scientists plan to look at the Iceman's Y chromosome DNA, which is passed on by fathers.

"He would never have had any [direct] descendants on the mitochondrial DNA side anyway, because he's a man," Richards said.

The mitochondrial DNA at best could link him to distant relatives—descendants of a sister or aunt, perhaps.

The scientists also plan to gather more genetic lines from people living in the region.

"At the present state of knowledge, no one can claim to be the descendant of Ötzi, but who knows …" Rollo said by email.

Not That Surprised

Anne Stone of Arizona State University has studied the Iceman's DNA but was not involved with this study.

She said the work is interesting, but the complete genome of only one sample limits what can be gleaned—a concern the study authors share.

"I am not that surprised that his lineage is somewhat different from other … European lineages and may have died out," Stone said.

I am sure that as additional complete mitochondrial genomes from Europeans of similar lineages are sequenced, we will know more about how his fits in with modern sequences, she said by email.

(Explore a time line of human migration.)

"I don't know that similar sequences will necessarily be found in the Alps," she said, adding that "there has been a lot of migration over the last 5,000 years."

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