Path of Khan: DNA tests show millions of Asian men descended from 11 nomadic kings

By Gareth Macdonald contact

- Last updated on GMT

Mongolian saddles were very well designed
Mongolian saddles were very well designed
Ancient nomadic kings’ love of life in the saddle did not hamper another of their favourite pastimes according to a study suggesting millions of Asian men are descended from just 11 fathers.

Researchers at the University of Leicester analysed the DNA of 5,000 men from 127 different populations and found that 11 versions of the male Y chromosomes were much more common than other variants.

The team – led by Professor Mark Jobling – concluded that because the chromosomes are common in populations spread over a wide area they must come from just 11 saddle sore nomadic leaders who ranged across the continent.

Jobling said: “The youngest lineages, originating in the last 1700 years, are found in pastoral nomadic populations, who were highly mobile horse-riders and could spread their Y chromosomes far and wide.

For these lineages to become so common, their powerful founders needed to have many sons by many women, and to pass their status - as well as their Y chromosomes - on to them​.”

He told the research is population focused and has few drug development implications, explaining that male infertility disorders are the only conditions linked to the Y-chromosome “which are obviously not relevant here!”

My 11 dads

Paternity testing has come on a lot in the past few thousand years and nowadays it is pretty easy to tell your Greg Evigan from your Paul Reiser, dad-wise​.

In ancient Asia things were very different and finding out which specific chaps are most likely to be the ancient ancestors of millions of modern day people is impossible.

That said, the Leicester researchers do put forward a few potential candidates with Mongol leader Genghis Khan being the leading candidate.

They also suggest the less well known Chinese ruler Giocangga, who was the father of famed Manchu leader Nurhaci, as a potential recipient of millions of great, great, great, great, great, gandfather's day cards.

Source: European Journal of Human Genetics

“Y-chromosome descent clusters and male differential reproductive success: young lineage expansions dominate Asian pastoral nomadic populations, European Journal of Human Genetics” by Balaresque, Nicolas Poulet, Sylvain Cussat-Blanc, Patrice Gerard, Lluis Quintana-Murci, Evelyne Heyer and Mark A Jobling


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