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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Inferring human history in East Asia from Y chromosomes

Chuan-Chao Wang and Hui Li*

Author Affiliations

State Key Laboratory of Genetic Engineering and Ministry of Education Key Laboratory of Contemporary Anthropology, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, 220 Handan Road, Shanghai, China

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Investigative Genetics 2013, 4:11  doi:10.1186/2041-2223-4-11

Published: 3 June 2013

Abstract

East Asia harbors substantial genetic, physical, cultural and linguistic diversity, but the detailed structures and interrelationships of those aspects remain enigmatic. This question has begun to be addressed by a rapid accumulation of molecular anthropological studies of the populations in and around East Asia, especially by Y chromosome studies. The current Y chromosome evidence suggests multiple early migrations of modern humans from Africa via Southeast Asia to East Asia. After the initial settlements, the northward migrations during the Paleolithic Age shaped the genetic structure in East Asia. Subsequently, recent admixtures between Central Asian immigrants and northern East Asians enlarged the genetic divergence between southern and northern East Asia populations. Cultural practices, such as languages, agriculture, military affairs and social prestige, also have impacts on the genetic patterns in East Asia. Furthermore, application of Y chromosome analyses in the family genealogy studies offers successful showcases of the utility of genetics in studying the ancient history.

Keywords:
East Asian populations; Y-chromosome; Migrations; Genetic structures