Saturday, October 20, 2007

My DNA Results Are Out! / Genographic Project

One and a half years ago, I wrote about the Genographic project, a DNA test that would tell me where my ancestors came from. We're not just talking about my great-great-great-grandfather, but my actual ancestors who lived 30,000-80,000 years ago! I finally got around to ordering the kit in August, and two months later, the results arrived. Here is what the kit includes. (Click for bigger pictures.)

The results are found online through a password protected site. Here are some additional information.

Update(!): Dr Hsien-Hsien Lei mentions my results in her blog entry, Genetic Genealogy and the Chinese.

Your Y-chromosome results identify you as a member of haplogroup O2. 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 P31, the defining marker of haplogroup O2.

If you look at the map highlighting your ancestors' route, you will see that members of haplogroup O2 carry the following Y-chromosome markers:

M168 > M89 > M9 > M175 > P31

Your Ancestral Journey: What We Know Now

M168: Your Earliest Ancestor
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 East
Time of Emergence: 45,000 years ago
Place: Northern Africa or the Middle East
Climate: Middle East: Semiarid 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 semiarid 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 Far
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.

M175: The East Asian Clan
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 continues with an ancestor who carried marker M175 and 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 nonexistent 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.

Time of Emergence: Roughly 30,000 years ago
Place of Origin: East Asia
Climate: Ice Age
Estimated Number of Homo sapiens: Approximately 100,000
Tools and Skills: Middle Upper Paleolithic

Roughly 30,000 years ago, one of your ancestors first displayed the genetic marker P31, which now defines your haplogroup O2. This man lived in eastern Asia, perhaps in southern China, and his descendents spread south into Southeast Asia, east to Korea, and north to Japan.

This distinctly Asian haplogroup he sired is most common today in Southeast Asian nations like Malaysia and Thailand.

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.


Anonymous said...

OMFG that is absofuckinglutely beyond coolness. being able to trace your roots back to africa is so soooo incredible! but it's like so generic that they prolly scammed you. did u like, send them your saliva swab?

i'm adding that to my "things to do when i get filthy rich" list.


jeffyen said...

It's not really generic because even for the journey into Asia, there're a few 'roads' that could have been taken. You can look at the website for details. Yes, I sent them two cheek swabs. ;p

Yes, I'm an African!

Anonymous said...

Jeff, is your family background Chinese? Haplogroup O2 is a rather unusual result for a Chinese person. It is typical of men from eastern India, Malaysia, western Indonesia, Japan, and Korea. I hope you gave the Genographic Project some good information about your family background and ethnic origins when you submitted your cheek swabs to them, because finding one of those rare Chinese guys in haplogroup O2 might help them to discover how that haplogroup has dispersed to its present habitats, which are mainly coastal and insular regions of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Japanese Archipelago.

catatonic said...

we're all africans la brudder.


jeffyen said...

anonymous, that is really interesting information! My parents are from a country called Taiwan, but I was born in Singapore... The Natgeo website doesn't have 'Taiwan' as a checkbox for indicating where my parents came from, I think I'll write to them to include it... :)

jeffyen said...

yes amy, we're all sistas ahaha

Hsien Lei said...

Hi Jeff!

Thanks for sharing your results with everyone. As you can see, I found it really interesting.

My mother is Taiwanese as well and my father is Northern Chinese. (I was raised in the US although my husband is Singaporean - talk about a small world!) I think the Taiwanese hail from so many different East Asian locales that it may be the reason your results are slightly unusual. Would be interesting to know more about your ancestors. I don't know much about mine, unfortunately.

Xopher Lance said...

Fascinating subject. I got tested as well. I hope you don't mind, but I'm linking to your post from my own blog, to show an alternate example of ancient human migrations.

Anonymous said...


In Taiwan there are Taiwanese and also Taiwan aborigines. The first group, Taiwanese, are the ethnic majority in Taiwan and are ethnic Chinese decended mainly from people originating from the Fujian Province area of China (also called Hokkien) who migrated to Taiwan and later intermarried with Taiwan aborigines. Taiwan aborigines are thought to be the "original" inhabitants of Taiwan and are closely related to people from the Phillipines. Today they are a minority in Taiwan and occupy mainly central and southern mountainous regions of Taiwan.

Hope this helps explain potential reasons for your results. Thanks for post by the way. My wife is Taiwanese and probably is in the same haplo group as you.


Anonymous said...

M168 > P143 > M89 > L15 > M9 > M214 > M175 > P31

These are my Y-chromosome markers according to NatGeo.

I'm a native of North Borneo (Sabah). NatGeo said I'm from the member of haplogroup O2(P31).