DNA

Wealth and power may have played a stronger role than ‘survival of the fittest’

Tempe, Ariz. — The DNA you inherit from your parents contributes to the physical make-up of your body — whether you have blue eyes or brown, black hair or red, or are male or female. Your DNA can also influence whether you might develop certain diseases or disorders such as Crohn’s Disease, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia or neurofibromatosis, to name a few.

In a study led by scientists from Arizona State University, the University of Cambridge, University of Tartu and Estonian Biocentre, and published March 13 in an online issue of the journalĀ Genome Research, researchers discovered a dramatic decline in genetic diversity in male lineages four to eight thousand years ago — likely the result of the accumulation of material wealth, while in contrast, female genetic diversity was on the rise. This male-specific decline occurred during the mid- to late-Neolithic period.

Melissa Wilson Sayres, a leading author and assistant professor with ASU’s School of Life Sciences, said, “Instead of ‘survival of the fittest’ in biological sense, the accumulation of wealth and power may have increased the reproductive success of a limited number of ‘socially fit’ males and their sons.”

It is widely recognized among scientists that a major bottleneck, or decrease in genetic diversity, occurred approximately 50 thousand years ago when a subset of humans left Africa and migrated across the rest of the world. Signatures of this bottleneck appear in most genes of non-African populations, whether they are inherited from both parents or, as confirmed in this study, only along the father’s or mother’s genetic lines.

Read more