Y chromosome DNA testing has revealed how we are all descended from one man living 190,000 years ago.
A study, the largest ever to involve the male Y chromosome, has given scientists more information about human evolution as well as population increases and migrations which have taken place in the last 55,000 years. The Y chromosome is only held by men and is passed down unchanged down the paternal line, mutating only once every 10,000 years.
The research team working on the project included 42 scientists from four different continents. They analysed the sequence differences between Y chromosomes belonging to more than 1,200 men from 26 different populations across the globe.
The scientists used the DNA data to build a tree containing all 1,200 Y chromosomes. They discovered that all of them were related to one another and had come from a single man who lived around 190,000 years ago.
The research, published in Nature Genetics, also revealed that at certain points in history, the human population increased sharply and they believe this could be as a result of people sharing technological advances with each other.
Study shows population rise due to migration
The first major increase in men happened between 50,000 and 55,000 years ago in Asia and Africa. This is thought to have been when Homo sapiens started to migrate from Africa and populate other areas of the world.
There was also another population explosion 15,000 in the Americas.
Dr Chris Tyler-Smith, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge, said that the movement of humans out of Africa explained some of the population explosions but other increases were more difficult to understand.
He said: “The best explanation is that they may have resulted from advances in technology that could be controlled by small groups of men. Wheeled transport, metal working and organised warfare are all candidate explanations that can now be investigated further.”
Y chromosome testing can also be used to find out whether two men are related. It is often used as an alternative to a paternity test when it is impossible to get a DNA sample from a man’s alleged father.
If two men are biologically related through the paternal family line, they will have identical Y chromosomes.