Men Are Not an Endangered Species

In a blow to End of Men doomsayers, a new study reveals that the Y chromosome is not in fact self-destructing, taking testicles and sports-watching with it. Everybody chest-bump!

According to the BBC, some scientists had predicted that poor fragile Y would be extinct within 100,000 years, taking dudes with it. One geneticist, Bryan Sykes, wrote a book called Adam's Curse speculating that the world would soon be stripped of male humans, and thus of "greed and ambition." The reason: while most women have two X chromosomes, most men have just one Y, meaning the chromosome doesn't get a chance to exchange genes with a counterpart. The result is that mutations and other problems get preserved over time. It's like the Y chromosome doesn't ask for directions (sorry, everyone). So some feared humans were about to go the way of the mole vole and spiny rat, which have already lost their Ys (and look how funny-looking they are!).

However, reports of Y's death may have been exaggerated. In a study published in Nature, researchers compared human Y chromosomes to those of chimps, which are about 6 million years behind us in evolutionary terms, and rhesus macaques, which are 25 million years behind. They found that the chimp chromosome has no genes the human one doesn't have, and the rhesus chromosome has just one that we lack. So basically, the Y chromosome has dropped just one gene in 25 million years — hardly a race towards extinction. Masculinity — represented in Nature by a stock photo of a guy inexplicably holding a soccer ball in front of the television — is safe!

But maybe it always was — because the end of Y might not mean the end of men. Spiny rats, for instance, still have males that produce sperm (and watch sports, I'd assume). The necessary genes have just moved over to the X chromosome. And Jennifer Graves, one of the scientists to predict the death of Y in the first place, thinks similar genes could actually pop up somewhere else: "The Y could disappear tomorrow if another sex-determining gene were to arise on an autosome." She's not talking about the disappearance of biological sex as we know it — rather, she speculates that the instructions that determine sex might move around. So relax, guys — your offspring will be holding soccer balls for no reason for generations to come.

Male Y chromosome extinction theory challenged [BBC]
The human Y chromosome is here to stay [Nature]

Image via Hanka Steidle/Shutterstock.com