Most modern European males descend from farmers who migrated from the Near East

January 19, 2010

( -- A new study from the University of Leicester has found that most men in Europe descend from the first farmers who migrated from the Near East 10,000 years ago. The findings are published January 19 in the open-access journal PLoS Biology.

The invention of farming is perhaps the most important cultural change in the history of modern humans. Increased food production led to the development of societies that stayed put, rather than wandering in search of food. The resulting population growth culminated in the seven billion people who now live on the planet. In Europe, farming spread from the 'Fertile Crescent', a region extending from the eastern Mediterranean coast to the Persian Gulf and including the Tigris and Euphrates valleys.

There has been much debate about whether the westerly spread of agriculture from the Near East was driven by actually migrating, or by the transfer of ideas and technologies to indigenous hunter-gatherers. Now, researchers have studied the of modern populations to throw light on the processes involved in these ancient events.

The new study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, examines the diversity of the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son. Mark Jobling, who led the research, said: "We focused on the commonest lineage in Europe, carried by about 110 million men - it follows a gradient from south-east to north-west, reaching almost 100% frequency in Ireland. We looked at how the lineage is distributed, how diverse it is in different parts of Europe, and how old it is." The results suggested that the lineage spread together with farming from the Near East.

Dr Patricia Balaresque, first author of the study, added: "In total, this means that more than 80% of European Y chromosomes descend from incoming farmers. In contrast, most maternal genetic lineages seem 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 - maybe, back then, it was just sexier to be a farmer."

Explore further: Europe's first farmers replaced their Stone Age hunter-gatherer forerunners

More information: Balaresque P, Bowden GR, Adams SM, Leung H-Y, King TE, et al. (2010) A Predominantly Neolithic Origin for European Paternal Lineages. PLoS Biol 8(1):e1000285. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000285

Related Stories

Stable climate and plant domestication linked

January 12, 2010

Sustainable farming and the introduction of new crops relies on a relatively stable climate, not dramatic conditions attributable to climate change. Basing their argument on evolutionary, ecological, genetic and agronomic ...

Recommended for you

Camponotini ant species have their own distinct microbiomes

November 22, 2017

Camponotini ant species have their own distinct microbiomes and the bacteria may also vary by developmental stage, according to a study published November 22, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Manuela Oliveira Ramalho ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (3) Jan 20, 2010
I wrote as much in an article a few weeks back and it was deleted as "pointless verbiage"
You hardly need to be a scientist to know this!
1 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2010
Probably, the hunter-gatherer females found the bronze- and iron weapon wielding "farmers" irresistible while they were being raped and then made chattel to work the fields and tend the livestock.

Would be nice if they had at least made an effort to try and contextualize their findings, rather than make glib comments about sexy farmers.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2010
The reproductive advantage farmers provide is food that can be harvested instead of hunted.
Farmers also needed more help, children, to do the chores.
With good soil and adequate rain, such a family could build permanent shelter stay a few years.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2010
Technically all humans originate from the near eastern farmers as far as our chronology shows.

Sexier to be a farmer is a ridiculous statement. How about "being a farmer rather than a hunter led to greater chances for reproduction due to " insert calculated food reserves, less violent deaths, etc.
1 / 5 (2) Jan 21, 2010
All humans originated from the middle east, I believe Adam was his name.
Jan 21, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.