The Parallel Lives of Human Y Chromosome Lineages Across the Strait of Gibraltar

  • Carla García-Fernández
  • Francesc CalafellEmail author


The patrilineal transmission of the Y chromosome and the fact that diversity in it accumulates along a strict genealogy imply that, by observing the current Y chromosome diversity in men, inferences can be made about the male-mediated history of humans (exactly like the female-mediated history is traced by mitochondrial DNA). By resequencing the non-recombining portion of the Y chromosome, it has been recently recognized that many branches of the Y chromosome genealogy (the so-called haplogroups) have expanded recently in bursts often tied to lifestyle changes or technological innovations. We have analysed two such bursting haplogroups: R1b-DF27 and E-M183. R1b-DF27 is prevalent in the Iberian Peninsula (40–70%), while its frequency drops to <15% north of the Pyrenees. We have estimated its age at ~4000 years ago, in line with ancient DNA discoveries and pointing to the population upheaval of the Bronze Age as a plausible agent in its origin and dispersion. Similarly, across the Strait of Gibraltar, E-M183 (equivalent to E-M81) dominates the Y chromosome landscape in NW Africa (up to 70%) and is much rarer elsewhere. However, its origins are more recent, at ~2000 years ago, and more difficult to pin down to a particular historical event. In conclusion, either in Iberia or the Maghreb, most men share a common ancestor that lived just a few hundred generations ago.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departament de Ciències, Experimentals I de La SalutInstitute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF), Universitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain

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