Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Male dominance not all that?   posted by Razib @ 8/05/2008 02:54:00 PM

Tyler points me to a new paper coming out in PNAS, Male dominance rarely skews the frequency distribution of Y chromosome haplotypes in human populations. It isn't on the site yet, but New Scientist has a write up:
To determine whether dominance could last more than a couple generations, Watkins and a team of anthropologists and geneticists sifted through the DNA of 1269 males from 41 Indonesian communities.
Out of 41 communities, from Bali to Borneo to mainland Indonesia, only five showed evidence of long-term dominance by a few male lines.
Of course, Genghis Khan proves that some powerful males can ensure their lineage - if not through prosperity, then promiscuity - but such men are rare, Watkins says.

"If I were to take 100 random Mongolians and follow their family lines, I wouldn't have seen anything special."

How does Wilkins know this about Mongolians? Perhaps there's some empirical data in the paper he isn't reporting re: Mongolia, but it seems that one must be cautious about extrapolating from Indonesia. As most of you know, Indonesia is an archipelago, and water tends to be really good at bottling up gene flow.

Of course, this is a big question that spans all human societies across time. I assume there are going to be variations across space, and time, and that frequency dependence is important as a conditional which frames any assertions we make. I suspect that Genghiside "super-male" lineages are more a feature of the last 10,000 years where it is possible for only a few people to sequester large amounts of surplus productivity and travel was much more common along elites. Additionally, I've made this point before, but I'll do so again: in many pre-modern societies being a high status male opens you up to a great deal of risk and gain simultaneously. So there might be a long term angle in turning your vehicles into indispensable betas....