Saturday, January 30, 2010

Earliest Farmers Left Prominent Genetic Trace Among British Males

11th Century Byzantine painting of farmers in fields and getting paid.

Most men in Britain are descended from the first farmers to migrate across Europe from the Near East 10,000 years ago. The ancient farmers left their genetic mark by breeding more successfully than indigenous hunter-gatherer men as they made their way west, a study has found.

Genetic tests on women, however, have shown that most are descendants of hunter-gatherer females. "To us, this suggests a reproductive advantage for farming males over indigenous hunter-gatherer males during the switch from hunting and gathering to farming," said Patricia Balaresque, a geneticist at Leicester University and co-author of the study.

More than 60% of British men, and nearly all of those in Ireland, can trace their Y chromosome back to the agricultural revolution, or more precisely the sexual success of the men behind it.

It is believed the first European farmers came from the "fertile crescent" that stretched from the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, but experts have argued whether the westerly spread of agriculture was driven by the cultural transmission of ideas and technology, or by migrating farmers.

Click here for the Guardian article.

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