Y chromosomes of 40% Chinese descend from three Neolithic super-grandfathers.
Demographic change of human populations is one of the central questions for delving into the past of human beings. To identify major population expansions related to male lineages, we sequenced 78 East Asian Y chromosomes at 3.9 Mbp of the non-recombining region, discovered >4,000 new SNPs, and identified many new clades. The relative divergence dates can be estimated much more precisely using a molecular clock. We found that all the Paleolithic divergences were binary; however, three strong star-like Neolithic expansions at ∼6 kya (thousand years ago) (assuming a constant substitution rate of 1×10(-9)/bp/year) indicates that ∼40% of modern Chinese are patrilineal descendants of only three super-grandfathers at that time. This observation suggests that the main patrilineal expansion in China occurred in the Neolithic Era and might be related to the development of agriculture.