A new genetic study has found that almost 40% of Y-DNA samples from 127 Asian populations descend from just 11 founder males, including Genghis Khan. All they needed for reproductive success were power, horses, access to women and lots of sons.
The study, co-led by Professor Mark Jobling from the University of Leicester, surveyed the Y-chromosomes of 5,321 Asian men and discovered 11 distinct ‘descent clusters’, each within a specific haplogroup representing “instances of high male reproductive success”.
Two of the 11 common male ancestors have already been identified as most likely being Genghis Khan, the 13th century founder of the Mongol Empire (the largest contiguous land empire in history), and the 16th century Manchurian warlord Giocangga, the grandfather of the founder of the Qing dynasty.
Professor Jobling said: “Based on our finding that 37.8 per cent of our sample carried Y chromosomes descending from the 11 founder males, if we extrapolate that to the 4.427 billion population of Asia then 1.7 billion today would share descent from these individuals.
“I think a figure of over a billion would be reasonable.
“The youngest lineages – originating in the last 1700 years – are found in pastoral nomadic populations who were highly mobile horse-riders and could spread their Y chromosomes far and wide.
“For these lineages to become so common their powerful founders needed to have many sons by many women and to pass their status – as well as their Y chromosomes – on to them.
“The sons, in turn, could then have many sons, too. It’s a kind of trans-generation amplification effect.
“These men would have had access to large numbers of women and if they had sons would have passed on their power as well as their genes – providing them with access to lots of women as well.
“We can make an educated guess as to who they were but apart from Khan they are pretty obscure individuals few people will have heard of – although Giocangga is quite well-known in China.
“We can take a guess at who they were but one problem is none of their resting places have ever been discovered – including Khan’s – which is a shame because then we would be able to extract DNA and get some more definitive evidence.”