Science & Tech

The male Y chromosome is starting to disappear

Genetics key to determine whether people can go grow beards

The chromosome that determines whether a mammal is male or not is disappearing.

According to Jenny Graves, Distinguished Professor of Genetics and Vice Chancellor's Fellow at, La Trobe University, the Y chromosome which kick-starts male development in the embryo about 12 weeks after conception, has lost 900–55 active genes over the 166 million years that humans and platypus have been evolving separately.

She explains that at this rate, the last 55 genes will be gone in 11 million years.

However this is not necessarily bad news for evolution. There are two rodent lineages that have already lost their Y chromosome and are still surviving. These are mole voles of eastern Europe and spiny rats of Japan.

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Meanwhile, some lizards and snakes are female-only species and can make eggs out of their own genes. While humans can't do this, if they can evolve in the same way that spiny rats and mole voles have and use other genes to kick-start male development, men are safe.

Thank goodness for that.

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