How settler farmers fathered Europe's males

They came, they saw, they farmed and then they stole our women. Stone age farmers from the middle east not only brought their agricultural know-how with them to western Europe, they settled down with the local womenfolk and had children.

A genetic analysis of present-day male Europeans has revealed that the first farmers spread both their agricultural technology and their genes across the continent, out-competing the resident hunter-gatherer males for female attraction.

The spread of agriculture from the fertile crescent of the Middle East to Europe was one of the most important cultural developments in the history of the continent. An agricultural way of life boosted the human population and allowed the establishment of urban centres and the rise of civilisation.

Until about 10,000 years ago, Europeans hunted wild animals and gathered whatever fruit and berries they could find. These paleolithic hunter gatherers created cave art drawings such as those at Lascaux in France, yet they were unable to build the cities and generate the art and culture that came with the boost in food production resulting from an agricultural way of life.

But scholars were not sure whether the transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer was the result of the passing of technological know-how from the middle east to people already living in Europe, or whether it was introduced by the actual migration of farmers across the continent, from Turkey to Ireland.

The study found that the spread of farming know-how coincided with the migration of farmers, which can be still be detected by analysing the DNA of the male Y chromosome of present-day male Europeans. The analysis shows that the Y chromosome, which is passed down from father to son, of most European men is descended from the Y chromosome of neolithic farmers who moved into Europe between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago.

However, a similar analysis of the mitochondrial DNA, which is only passed down the maternal line from mothers to their children, indicates that most European women are descended from the female hunter-gatherers who had lived in Europe long before the arrival of the first farmers, according to the study, published in the on-line journal Plos Biology.

“We found that farmers migrated from Anatolia [in Turkey] and that they have been very successful because they probably dominated the hunter-gatherer population by transmitting their genes more efficiently,” said Patricia Balaresque of Leicester University.

“In total, this means that more than 80 per cent of European Y chomosomes descend from incoming farmers. In contrast, most maternal genetic lineages seem to descend from hunter-gatherers. To us, this suggests a reproductive advantage for farming males over indigenous hunter-gatherer males during the switch from hunting and gathering to farming – maybe, back then, it was just sexier to be a farmer,” Dr Balaresque said.

The study investigated a particular form of the Y chomosome carried by 110 million men of European descent. The variation in this chromosome follows a gradient from south-east to north-west, the direction of the migration.



Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy