Jan. 20, 2010 -- TUESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- The majority of European males are descended from farmers who migrated from the Near East 10,000 years ago, say English researchers who examined the diversity of the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son.
"We focused on the commonest Y-chromosome lineage in Europe, carried by about 110 million men -- it follows a gradient from south-east to north-west, reaching almost 100 percent frequency in Ireland," the study's leader, Mark Jobling, of the University of Leicester, said in a university news release. "We looked at how the lineage is distributed, how diverse it is in different parts of Europe, and how old it is."
Jobling and his colleagues concluded that this Y-chromosome lineage spread together with farming from the "Fertile Crescent," an area extending from the eastern Mediterranean coast to the Persian Gulf, including the Tigris and Euphrates valleys.
More than 80 percent of European Y-chromosomes descend from farmers who migrated from the Near East, they said, but most female genetic lineages appear to descend from hunter-gatherers.
"To us, this suggests a reproductive advantage for farming males over indigenous hunter-gatherer males during the switch from hunting and gathering to farming," the study's first author, Patricia Balaresque, said in the news release.
"Maybe, back then, it was just sexier to be a farmer," she said.
The study was published Jan. 19 in PLoS Biology.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about the Y chromosome.
SOURCE: University of Leicester, news release, Jan. 19, 2010