Men are not dying out

Thursday, February 23, 2012
Men are not dying out

Single women worldwide can breathe a sigh of relief — it turns out men aren't dying out after all.

Previous research suggested that men would become extinct within the next five million years.

But a new study of rhesus macaque monkeys — one of man's most distant cousins — found that although the Y chromosome is shrinking, the rate of decay is not as steep as once thought.

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Scientists had previously discovered that the male Y chromosome had shrunk from 1,400 genes 300 million years ago, to just 45 genes now.

Based on this rate of decay, they predicted the male chromosome, and thus all human men, would die out within the next five million years.

But the latest study has found that the 'male extinction' claims have been greatly exaggerated.

Researchers concede there was a rapid decrease in Y genes at first, but that this has now slowed dramatically.

The rhesus species has not lost any Y genes in the past 25 million years, while humans have lost just one. Furthermore, the human Y has been completely stable for the past six million years.

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"The Y was in free fall early on and genes were lost at an incredibly rapid rate," study leader Professor David Page from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"But then it levelled off — and it's been doing just fine since."

Video: Sexual evolution

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