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DNA study into European ancestry

25th August 2011

A team of international researchers led by British experts has challenged evidence over the genetic signature of most European men.

The findings effectively deal a blow to the idea that most are descended from farmers who migrated from the Near East 5,000-10,000 years ago.

Latest research favours the idea that most men in Europe trace their lineage to stone-age hunters though experts acknowledge more work is needed on this suggestion.

The latest study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, focused on the Y chromosome.

More than 100 million European men carry a type called R-M269, which is most common in western Europe, though a Leicester University study from 2010 showed that the genetic diversity of R-M269 increases in the east, peaking in modern Turkey.

This backed a Neolithic origin for the R-M269, though another paper supported a Palaeolithic origin.

In the latest research a team including Cristian Capelli and George Busby at Oxford University have explored the question.

They suggest there are no geographical trends in the diversity of R-M269 and that some of the markers on the Y chromosome are less reliable than others for estimating the ages of genetic lineages.

However, Dr Capelli stressed his study could not answer the question of when the ubiquitous R-M269 expanded in Europe, although his team is carrying out more work on the subject.

Co-author Dr Jim Wilson from the University of Edinburgh explained: “Estimating a date at which an ancestral lineage originated is an interesting application of genetics, but unfortunately it is beset with difficulties.”

 

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