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Genes expose secrets of sex on the side

searchers looked. Instead, the age of men's common ancestor differs between the southern African, Mongolian and Papua New Guinean populations studied. The finding tends to rule out some global beneficial mutation as the reason Y-chromosome DNA is less variable than mitochondrial DNA.

"Because we don't think the pattern we see was caused by an event that swept across the globe, we had to re-examine our assumptions about whether equal numbers of men and women are mating," Wilder said.

The team thinks the genetic patterns are all about sex.

Or lack thereof. Lots more men than women are childless, and it has ever been thus, the researchers say.

To see whether men and women traveled equal distances while sowing their wild oats, Wilder, Hammer and Mobasher teamed up with research specialist Sarah Kingan and Maya Pilkington, a doctoral candidate in UA's department of anthropology. The group tested DNA from 389 individuals representing 10 distinct human populations from places as far apart as the Netherlands, South Africa and Papua New Guinea.

Previous explanations of women and men's migration patterns had been based on a combination of genetic patterns and knowledge about the marriage practice of patrilocality. About 70 percent of the world's cultures practice patrilocality.

When populations are compared, patrilocality would predict greater differences between populations in Y-chromosome DNA than in mitochondrial DNA, which is just what earlier population genetic research found. Patrilocality also predicts that, on average, men do not migrate as far as women.

On the basis of the genetic work, women's rate of migration had been pegged as eight times higher than men's.

The UA team didn't think local marriage practices could govern global-level patterns of genetic variation. But variation in the Y-c
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Contact: Mari N. Jensen
mnjensen@email.arizona.edu
520-626-9635
University of Arizona
19-Sep-2004


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