The existence of a Y-chromosomal Adam was determined by applying the theories of molecular evolution to the Y chromosome. Unlike the autosomes, the human Y chromosome does not recombine with the X chromosome but is transferred intact from father to son. Mutations periodically occur within the Y chromosome and these mutations are passed on to males in subsequent generations. These mutations can be used as markers to identify shared patrilineal relationships. Y chromosomes that share a specific mutation are referred to as haplogroups. Y chromosomes within a specific haplogroup share a common patrilineal ancestor who was the first to carry the defining mutation. A family tree of Y chromosomes can be constructed, with the mutations serving as branching points along lineages. Y-chromosomal Adam is positioned at the root of the family tree as the Y chromosomes of all living males are descended from his Y chromosome.
Researchers can reconstruct ancestral Y chromosome DNA sequences by reversing mutated DNA segments to their original condition. The most likely original or ancestral state of a DNA sequence is determined by comparing human DNA sequences with those of a closely related species, usually non-human primates such as chimpanzees and gorillas. By reversing known mutations in a Y-chromosome lineage, a hypothetical ancestral sequence for the MRCA, Y-chromosomal Adam, can be inferred.
Determining Y-chromosomal Adam's DNA sequence, and the time when he lived, involves identifying the human Y-chromosome lineages that are most divergent from each other—the lineages that share the least unique mutations with each other when compared to a non-human primate sequence in a phylogenetic tree. The common ancestor of the most divergent lineages is therefore the common ancestor of all lineages.
The existence of Y-chromosomal Adam was confirmed by a worldwide sample of Y chromosomes that included individuals from all continents. A number of Y-chromosome lineages, or haplogroups, from Africa were found to be the most divergent from each other, and non-African lineages were determined to be subsets of a few lineages found in Africa. This suggested Africa was the most likely home of Y-chromosomal Adam.
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Famous quotes containing the word hypothesis:
“The great tragedy of sciencethe slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”
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“The hypothesis I wish to advance is that ... the language of morality is in ... grave disorder.... What we possess, if this is true, are the fragments of a conceptual scheme, parts of which now lack those contexts from which their significance derived. We possess indeed simulacra of morality, we continue to use many of the key expressions. But we havevery largely if not entirelylost our comprehension, both theoretical and practical, of morality.”
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