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Single Chinese man spawned 1.5m
Descendants a-go-go for Qing dynasty grandad
Researchers have discovered that 1.5 million Chinese men from north-east China and Mongolia are directly descended from one busy chap called Giocangga - grandad of the founder of the Qing dynasty.
According the the BBC, the high prevalence of a set of genes passed on from Giocangga's Y chromosome is due to his offsprings' hard work in the wife and concubine department. Wellcome Trust Sanger geneticist Chris Tyler-Smith, who made the discovery, explained: "What we did was analyse around 1,000 men from that part of the world. We noticed just two types of Y chromosome that were extraordinarily frequent - one of them making up around 3% of our sample.
When Tyler-Smith's team looker closer, they found the genes in question absent in the majority Han population, but present in around five per cent of local ethnic minorities, including Mongolians. They used this to track down the genes' origin - north-east China around 500 years ago.
Tyler Smith elaborated: "We soon realised there was a major historical event going on at this time - the establishment of the Qing dynasty, which conquered China and ruled for several hundred years. It was ruled by the Qing imperial nobility, who were a highly privileged elite class, and they had several wives and concubines. Because of the privilege, they could have had many children - and those children would have had a good chance of survival."
The figures stack up thus: the Chinese population in Giocangga's time was around 100 million, compared to 1.3 billion now. Accordingly, your common or garden non-royal from that time might expect to boast just 20 descendants today*. Giocangga, on the other hand, racks up a whopping 1.5 million.
Tyler-Smith concluded: "The difference is accounted for by the large number of wives and concubines - and in particular, this practice being linked to the Y chromosome for many generations." ®
*No, we're not sure this is right, either - and thanks to all those readers who have deployed their abacuses this afternoon.