Rare human Y-chromosome found to have a common ancestor pre-dating AMH

A new paper in The American Journal of Human Genetics

An African American Paternal Lineage Adds an Extremely Ancient Root to the Human Y Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree by Fernando L. Mendez, Thomas Krahn, Bonnie Schrack, Astrid-Maria Krahn, Krishna R. Veeramah, August E. Woerner, Forka Leypey Mathew Fomine, Neil Bradman, Mark G. Thomas, Tatiana M. Karafet, Michael F. Hammer DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2013.02.002

(Full paper here)


We report the discovery of an African American Y chromosome that carries the ancestral state of all SNPs that defined the basal portion of the Y chromosome phylogenetic tree. We sequenced ∼240 kb of this chromosome to identify private, derived mutations on this lineage, which we named A00. We then estimated the time to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) for the Y tree as 338 thousand years ago (kya) (95% confidence interval = 237–581 kya). Remarkably, this exceeds current estimates of the mtDNA TMRCA, as well as those of the age of the oldest anatomically modern human fossils. The extremely ancient age combined with the rarity of the A00 lineage, which we also find at very low frequency in central Africa, point to the importance of considering more complex models for the origin of Y chromosome diversity. These models include ancient population structure and the possibility of archaic introgression of Y chromosomes into anatomically modern humans. The A00 lineage was discovered in a large database of consumer samples of African Americans and has not been identified in traditional hunter-gatherer populations from sub-Saharan Africa. This underscores how the stochastic nature of the genealogical process can affect inference from a single locus and warrants caution during the interpretation of the geographic location of divergent branches of the Y chromosome phylogenetic tree for the elucidation of human origins.

This does not of course say anything about when precisely Anatomically Modern Humans came into being (which was surely a very gradual process) but it does trace a very rare lineage back to a time when the Neanderthal – AMH split was happening and which was at the dawn of AMH.

Figure 1. Genealogy of A00, A0, and the Reference Sequence
Lineages on which mutations were identified and lineages that
were used for placing those mutations on the genealogy are
indicated with thick and thin lines, respectively. The numbers of
identified mutations on a branch are indicated in italics (four
mutations in A00 were not genotyped but are indicated as shared
by Mbo in this tree). The time estimates (and confidence intervals)
are indicated kya for three nodes: the most recent common
ancestor, the common ancestor between A0 and the reference
(ref), and the common ancestor of A00 chromosomes from an
African American individual and the Mbo. Two sets of ages are
shown: on the left are estimates (numbers in black) obtained
with the mutation rate based on recent whole-genome sequencing
results as described in the main text, and on the right
are estimates (numbers in gray) based on the higher mutation rate
used by Cruciani et al.6

Science Daily:“Our analysis indicates this lineage diverged from previously known Y chromosomes about 338,000 (years) ago, a time when anatomically modern humans had not yet evolved,” said Michael Hammer, an associate professor in the University of Arizona’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology and a research scientist at the UA’s Arizona Research Labs. “This pushes back the time the last common Y chromosome ancestor lived by almost 70 percent.”

….. Hammer said the newly discovered Y chromosome variation is extremely rare. Through large database searches, his team eventually was able to find a similar chromosome in the Mbo, a population living in a tiny area of western Cameroon in sub-Saharan Africa.

“This was surprising because previously the most diverged branches of the Y chromosome were found in traditional hunter-gatherer populations such as Pygmies and the click-speaking KhoeSan, who are considered to be the most diverged human populations living today.”

“Instead, the sample matched the Y chromosome DNA of 11 men, who all came from a very small region of western Cameroon,” Hammer said. “And the sequences of those individuals are variable, so it’s not like they all descended from the same grandfather.”

Related: Cameroonian Y-DNA lineage A00 is older than Homo sapiens


About ktwop

Scientist, technologist, salesman, manager, executive and now a consultant and author.
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