Where do you really come from? And how did you get to where you live today? DNA studies suggest that all humans today descend from a group of African ancestors who—about 60,000 years ago—began a remarkable journey.
The Genographic Project is seeking to chart new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species by using sophisticated laboratory and computer analysis of DNA contributed by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. In this unprecedented and of real-time research effort, the Genographic Project is closing the gaps of what science knows today about humankind's ancient migration stories.
Here are the results for the paternal lineage of my genetic heritage.
Click here for the maternal lineage.
How to Interpret Your ResultsAbove are results from the laboratory analysis of your Y-chromosome. Your DNA was analyzed for Short Tandem Repeats (STRs), which are repeating segments of your genome that have a high mutation rate. The location on the Y chromosome of each of these markers is depicted in the image, with the number of repeats for each of your STRs presented to the right of the marker. For example, DYS19 is a repeat of TAGA, so if your DNA repeated that sequence 12 times at that location, it would appear: DYS19 12. Studying the combination of these STR lengths in your Y Chromosome allows researchers to place you in a haplogroup, which reveals the complex migratory journeys of your ancestors. Y-SNP: In the event that the analysis of your STRs was inconclusive, your Y chromosome was also tested for the presence of an informative Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP). These are mutational changes in a single nucleotide base, and allow researchers to definitively place you in a genetic haplogroup.
*NB: If your results indicate "null," this is a situation in which the lab was unable to obtain a result for this marker (aka location) in your DNA. Possible causes include a deletion in your DNA sequence that removed the entire marker, or a mutation near the marker that causes the test to be unable to "find" the marker in order to test it. While uncommon, this does occur occasionally.
Your genetic historyYour Y-chromosome results identify you as a member of haplogroup O (M175).
The genetic markers that define your ancestral history reach back roughly 60,000 years to the first common marker of all non-African men, M168, and follow your lineage to present day, ending with M175, the defining marker of haplogroup O.
If you look at the map highlighting your ancestors' route, you will see that members of haplogroup O carry the following Y-chromosome markers:
M168 > P143 > M89 > L15 > M9 > M214 > M175
(Less is known about some markers than others. What is known about your journey is reflected below.)
Today, more than half of all Chinese males carry the genetic marker M175, which is also widespread throughout East Asia and found in lower frequencies in Tahiti and Indonesia.
What's a haplogroup, and why do geneticists concentrate on the Y-chromosome in their search for markers? For that matter, what's a marker?
Each of us carries DNA that is a combination of genes passed from both our mother and father, giving us traits that range from eye color and height to athleticism and disease susceptibility. One exception is the Y-chromosome, which is passed directly from father to son, unchanged, from generation to generation.
Unchanged, that is unless a mutation -a random, naturally occurring, usually harmless change- occurs. The mutation, known as a marker, acts as a beacon; it can be mapped through generations because it will be passed down from the man in whom it occurred to his sons, their sons, and every male in his family for thousands of years.
In some instances there may be more than one mutational event that defines a particular branch on the tree. What this means is that any of these markers can be used to determine your particular haplogroup, since every individual who has one of these markers also has the others.
When geneticists identify such a marker, they try to figure out when it first occurred, and in which geographic region of the world. Each marker is essentially the beginning of a new lineage on the family tree of the human race. Tracking the lineages provides a picture of how small tribes of modern humans in Africa tens of thousands of years ago diversified and spread to populate the world.
A haplogroup is defined by a series of markers that are shared by other men who carry the same random mutations. The markers trace the path your ancestors took as they moved out of Africa. It's difficult to know how many men worldwide belong to any particular haplogroup, or even how many haplogroups there are, because scientists simply don't have enough data yet.
One of the goals of the five-year Genographic Project is to build a large enough database of anthropological genetic data to answer some of these questions. To achieve this, project team members are traveling to all corners of the world to collect more than 100,000 DNA samples from indigenous populations. In addition, we encourage you to contribute your anonymous results to the project database, helping our geneticists reveal more of the answers to our ancient past.
Keep checking these pages; as more information is received, more may be learned about your own genetic history.
Your Ancestral Journey: What We Know Now
M168: Your Earliest AncestorFast Facts Time of Emergence: Roughly 50,000 years ago Place of Origin: Africa Climate: Temporary retreat of Ice Age; Africa moves from drought to warmer temperatures and moister conditions Estimated Number of Homo sapiens: Approximately 10,000 Tools and Skills: Stone tools; earliest evidence of art and advanced conceptual skills
Skeletal and archaeological evidence suggest that anatomically modern humans evolved in Africa around 200,000 years ago, and began moving out of Africa to colonize the rest of the world around 60,000 years ago.
The man who gave rise to the first genetic marker in your lineage probably lived in northeast Africa in the region of the Rift Valley, perhaps in present-day Ethiopia, Kenya, or Tanzania, some 31,000 to 79,000 years ago. Scientists put the most likely date for when he lived at around 50,000 years ago. His descendants became the only lineage to survive outside of Africa, making him the common ancestor of every non-African man living today.
But why would man have first ventured out of the familiar African hunting grounds and into unexplored lands? It is likely that a fluctuation in climate may have provided the impetus for your ancestors' exodus out of Africa.
The African ice age was characterized by drought rather than by cold. It was around 50,000 years ago that the ice sheets of northern Europe began to melt, introducing a period of warmer temperatures and moister climate in Africa. Parts of the inhospitable Sahara briefly became habitable. As the drought-ridden desert changed to a savanna, the animals hunted by your ancestors expanded their range and began moving through the newly emerging green corridor of grasslands. Your nomadic ancestors followed the good weather and the animals they hunted, although the exact route they followed remains to be determined.
In addition to a favorable change in climate, around this same time there was a great leap forward in modern humans' intellectual capacity. Many scientists believe that the emergence of language gave us a huge advantage over other early human species. Improved tools and weapons, the ability to plan ahead and cooperate with one another, and an increased capacity to exploit resources in ways we hadn't been able to earlier, all allowed modern humans to rapidly migrate to new territories, exploit new resources, and replace other hominids.
M89: Moving Through the Middle EastFast Facts Time of Emergence: 45,000 years ago Place: Northern Africa or the Middle East Climate: Middle East: Semi-arid grass plains Estimated Number of Homo sapiens: Tens of thousands Tools and Skills: Stone, ivory, wood tools
The next male ancestor in your ancestral lineage is the man who gave rise to M89, a marker found in 90 to 95 percent of all non-Africans. This man was born around 45,000 years ago in northern Africa or the Middle East.
The first people to leave Africa likely followed a coastal route that eventually ended in Australia. Your ancestors followed the expanding grasslands and plentiful game to the Middle East and beyond, and were part of the second great wave of migration out of Africa.
Beginning about 40,000 years ago, the climate shifted once again and became colder and more arid. Drought hit Africa and the grasslands reverted to desert, and for the next 20,000 years, the Saharan Gateway was effectively closed. With the desert impassable, your ancestors had two options: remain in the Middle East, or move on. Retreat back to the home continent was not an option.
While many of the descendants of M89 remained in the Middle East, others continued to follow the great herds of buffalo, antelope, woolly mammoths, and other game through what is now modern-day Iran to the vast steppes of Central Asia.
These semi-arid grass-covered plains formed an ancient "superhighway" stretching from eastern France to Korea. Your ancestors, having migrated north out of Africa into the Middle East, then traveled both east and west along this Central Asian superhighway. A smaller group continued moving north from the Middle East to Anatolia and the Balkans, trading familiar grasslands for forests and high country.
M9: The Eurasian Clan Spreads Wide and FarFast Facts Time of Emergence: 40,000 years ago Place: Iran or southern Central Asia Estimated Number of Homo sapiens: Tens of thousands Tools and Skills: Upper Paleolithic
Your next ancestor, a man born around 40,000 years ago in Iran or southern Central Asia, gave rise to a genetic marker known as M9, which marked a new lineage diverging from the M89 Middle Eastern Clan. His descendants, of which you are one, spent the next 30,000 years populating much of the planet.
This large lineage, known as the Eurasian Clan, dispersed gradually over thousands of years. Seasoned hunters followed the herds ever eastward, along the vast super highway of Eurasian steppe. Eventually their path was blocked by the massive mountain ranges of south Central Asia-the Hindu Kush, the Tian Shan, and the Himalayas.
The three mountain ranges meet in a region known as the "Pamir Knot," located in present-day Tajikistan. Here the tribes of hunters split into two groups. Some moved north into Central Asia, others moved south into what is now Pakistan and the Indian subcontinent.
These different migration routes through the Pamir Knot region gave rise to separate lineages.
Most people native to the Northern Hemisphere trace their roots to the Eurasian Clan. Nearly all North Americans and East Asians are descended from the man described above, as are most Europeans and many Indians.
M214Fast Facts Time of Emergence: 35,000 years ago Place: Eurasia east of the Aral Sea Estimated Number of Homo sapiens: approximately 100,000 Tools and Skills: Upper Paleolithic
As the first hunter-gatherers moved into Asia they encountered a vast swath of land that allowed for the early establishment of many different populations in the region. Most of these first migrants descended from the M9 genetic line, having made their way into Asia directly from the Middle East. Once there, several distinct Haplogroups formed, two of which share a common ancestor known as M214.
The man carrying this marker descends from the M9 mutation and lived in Eurasia, likely east of the Aral Sea between 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. His descendants gave rise to a Haplogroup called NO, because it is considered the parent group to two important sub-groups. Haplogroups N, defined by the LLY22 polymorphism, and Haplogroup O, defined by M175, are found at overwhelmingly high frequency throughout North and East Eurasia. This means that the man carrying M214 has become the direct patrilineal ancestor of a very large percentage of present-day humans.
Despite (or because of) the success of these descendant Haplogroups, the ancestral NO group is very rare in today’s population. It is found only sparingly along the north and eastern fringes of present-day China, as well as low frequencies in parts of Southeast Asia.
M175: The East Asian ClanFast Facts Time of Emergence: 35,000 years ago Place of Origin: Central or East Asia Climate: Ice Age Estimated Number of Homo sapiens: Approximately 100,000 Tools and Skills: Upper Paleolithic
Your genetic trail ends with an ancestor carrying marker M175 who was born around 35,000 years ago in Central or East Asia. This ancestor was part of the M9 Eurasian clan that, encountering impassable mountain ranges, migrated to the north and east.
These early Siberian hunters continued to travel east along the great steppes, gradually crossing southern Siberia. Some of them, perhaps taking advantage of the Dzhungarian Gap used thousands of years later by Genghis Khan to invade Central Asia, made it into present-day China.
East Asia had been home to Homo erectus for nearly a million years, but traces of occupation disappear from the archaeological record around 100,000 years ago. The earlier hominids may have abandoned the region or died off due to a steadily deteriorating climate.
By the time your ancestors arrived in China and East Asia, the Ice Age was once again advancing toward glacial maximum. Encroaching ice sheets and Central Asia's enormous mountain ranges effectively corralled them in East Asia. There they evolved in isolation over the millennia.
Today, some 80 to 90 percent of all people living east of Central Asia's great mountain ranges are members of haplogroup O, the East Asian Clan. The marker M175 is nearly non-existent in western Asia and Europe.
There were actually two waves of migration into this region. While your ancestors populated the region from the north, another group approached from the south. Descendants of the Coastal Clan-people who left Africa perhaps 60,000 years ago and headed along the coastline toward Australia-may have reached East Asia by 50,000 years ago.
The Coastal lineage is found at a frequency of 50 percent in Mongolia, and is common throughout northeast Asia.
The present composition of East Asia still shows evidence of this ancient north-south divide, showing a clear distinction in genetic heritage between northern and southern Chinese.
This is where your genetic trail, as we know it today, ends. However, be sure to revisit these pages. As additional data are collected and analyzed, more will be learned about your place in the history of the men and women who first populated the Earth. We will be updating these stories throughout the life of the project.