What Can the Y Chromosome Tell Us about the Origin of Modern Humans?

Chris Tyler-Smith

in The Speciation of Modern Homo Sapiens

Published by British Academy

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780197263112
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734885 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

What Can the Y Chromosome Tell Us about the Origin of Modern Humans?

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  • Prehistoric Archaeology


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This chapter outlines the peculiar genetic history and population characteristics of the Y chromosome, including the interaction with the X. The small size of the Y and its sex-limited transmission make it at first sight an unlikely vehicle for the determining characteristic of the species. Human and ape Y lineages are generally believed to have split about 5–7 million years ago, while extant human Y lineages trace back to a common ancestor that probably lived between 40 and 200 thousand years ago. Between these dates, two substantial segments of DNA on the Y chromosome were duplicated on the Y: the Yq pseudoautosomal region and the Xq/Yp homology region. The former does not contain any good candidate speciation genes but the latter may. The Xq-Yp transposition probably occurred soon after the ape-human split and, at the same time or subsequently, was divided in two by an inversion.

Keywords: pseudoautosomal region; speciation genes; ape-human split; sex-limited transmission; human Y lineages

Chapter.  5116 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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