Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

June 19, 2018

Why the Y chromosome is coming back

Filed under: Historical Population Genetics,The Insight,Y chromosome — Razib Khan @ 6:43 am

Last week Spencer and I talked about chromosomes and their sociological import on The Insight. It was a pretty popular episode, but then again, my post on the genetics of Genghis Khan is literally my most popular piece of writing of all time which wasn’t distributed in a non-blog channel (hundreds of thousands of people have read it). Thanks to everyone who left a review on iTunes and Stitcher (well, a good review). We’re getting close to my goal of 100 reviews on iTunes and 10 on Stitcher so that I won’t pester you about it.

Of course the reality is that the heyday of  chromosomal population genetic studies was arguably about 15 years ago, when Spencer wrote The Journey of Man. I have personally constructed Y phylogenies before…but as you know from reading this weblog, I tend to look at genome-wide autosomal studies. There is a reason that why Who We Are and How We Got Here focuses on autosomal data.

All that being said, Y (and mtDNA) still have an important role to play in understanding the past: sociological dynamics. The podcast was mostly focused on star phylogenies, whether it be the Genghis Khan haplotype, or the dominant lineages of R1a and R1b. Strong reproductive skew does have genome-wide effects, but unless it’s polygyny as extreme as an elephant seal’s those effects are going to be more subtle than what you see in the Y and mtDNA.

Submitted for your approval, two recent preprints on bioRxiv: The role of matrilineality in shaping patterns of Y chromosome and mtDNA sequence variation in southwestern Angola and Cultural Innovations influence patterns of genetic diversity in Northwestern Amazonia. The future is going to be in understanding sexual dynamics and culture.

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