New release: Climate change – the board game

I have just released Climate Change – the board game: a free educational board game about evolution and climate change. The aim is to “put yourself in the paws” of animal species, and to experience both their evolution and their struggles in the current climate emergency.

Climate change - the board game

Each player is a medium/large mammal species, living in a word where climate changes unexpectedly. Every species has its DNA and collects mutations through time, allowing it to adapt to new habitats. Sometimes evolving is not an option, and the species must migrate or go extinct. It is also possible to integrate human-associated climate changes.

It has been designed as an educational resource for schools (groups of 4-5 people, with an approximate duration of 30 minutes to leave space for discussion and questions): we have used it successfully to do outreach at the Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge. Still, it can also be played with friends and family.

Climate change the board game activity at the Zoology Museum, Cambridge

Press release: 5,000 years of matrilineal continuity in North-Western Tuscany

The city of Lucca as seen from satellite. Source: Google Earth.
The city of Lucca as seen from satellite. Source: Google Earth.

It just came out in American Journal of Physical anthropology our new paper (behind paywall) The female ancestor’s tale: Long‐term matrilineal continuity in a nonisolated region of Tuscany, Result of the collaboration between the University of Ferrara and the University of Florence. Here is an open-access link to the PDF (read-only).

North-Western Tuscany (roughly Lucca and Massa Carrara provinces) has always been a corridor of exchange between Central and North-Western Italy. The region was disputed between the Etruscans and Ligurians, it has been then conquered by the Romans, and in the following centuries underwent several changes of rulers.

We tried to define if and when such complex history entailed matrilinear discontinuity in the local population. We did so by analysing a portion of the mitochondrial DNA in 119 samples from the region, dated from the Copper age (around 5,000 years ago) the Roman period, the Renaissance, modern-day and including some Etruscan sequences from the whole of Tuscany.

tuscany

Using computer simulations we found out that the better explanation for the genetic diversity in our samples is that they belong to the same population, in continuity through time. This is a quite surprising result since similar degrees of long-term continuity have been mostly observed in isolated areas.

A possible explanation of those results that either the historical changes observed in north-western Tuscany (conquers, immigration etc.) mainly lead to foreign males arriving and marrying local females. It is also possible that the rulers from outside (Romans, Lombards, French) and the local population did not mix significantly because they were part of different social groups. Whatever the region may be, modern day Lucca inhabitants appear to be the direct descendants of the women living in the regions millennia ago, teaching us that genetic continuity can not only be found in isolated communities.