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Ear to the Ground

Study: Men May Stick Around for More Than 5M Years

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Posted on Feb 22, 2012
Wikimedia Commons / National Institutes of Health

Here we see human chromosomes in vivid color.

What a relief to know that men might not be an endangered species with a potential expiration date in only 5 million years, according to a new study published, appropriately (if heavy-handedly), in a journal called Nature. The issue boils down to a predicted, but now contested, process of genetic decay targeting the man-specific Y chromosome.

The BBC:

Previous research has suggested the Y sex chromosome, which only men carry, is decaying genetically so fast that it will be extinct in five million years’ time.

A gene within the chromosome is the switch which leads to testes development and the secretion of male hormones.

But a new US study in Nature suggests the genetic decay has all but ended.

[...] Jennifer Hughes and colleagues at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have sought to determine whether rumours of the Y chromosome’s demise have been exaggerated.

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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, February 23, 2012 at 3:00 pm Link to this comment

“In a previous Nature paper in 2005, they compared the human Y chromosome with that of the chimpanzee, whose lineage diverged from that of humans about six million years ago.

They have now sequenced the Y chromosome of the rhesus monkey, which is separated from humans by 25 million years of evolution.

The conclusion from these comparative studies is that genetic decay has in recent history been minimal, with the human chromosome having lost no further genes in the last six million years, and only one in the last 25 million years.

“The Y is not going anywhere and gene loss has probably come to a halt,” Ms Hughes told BBC News. “We can’t rule out the possibility it could happen another time, but the genes which are left on the Y are here to stay.

“They apparently serve some critical function which we don’t know much about yet, but the genes are being preserved pretty well by natural selection.”

Gerard, you can handle the “spiritual” part. Not scientific. It seems that over the 6 million years the losses have been minimal an stopped once it reached some level of balance.

Such chromosomes are artificially colored an you need to locate the few genes involved in skin color, eye color, hair color an type for that.

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By gerard, February 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm Link to this comment

Seriously, we can all be thankful if it is true that “genetic decay has all but ended.”  But ... the same news concerning spiritual decay would be even more welcome.

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By gerard, February 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm Link to this comment

O my God!  Chromosomes come in all colors of the rainbow!  How can that be when we don’t have any purple people?

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