A Y-chromosome signature of hegemony in Gaelic Ireland

Am J Hum Genet. 2006 Feb;78(2):334-8. doi: 10.1086/500055. Epub 2005 Dec 8.


Seventeen-marker simple tandem repeat genetic analysis of Irish Y chromosomes reveals a previously unnoted modal haplotype that peaks in frequency in the northwestern part of the island. It shows a significant association with surnames purported to have descended from the most important and enduring dynasty of early medieval Ireland, the Ui Neill. This suggests that such phylogenetic predominance is a biological record of past hegemony and supports the veracity of semimythological early genealogies. The fact that about one in five males sampled in northwestern Ireland is likely a patrilineal descendent of a single early medieval ancestor is a powerful illustration of the potential link between prolificacy and power and of how Y-chromosome phylogeography can be influenced by social selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes, Human, Y / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Male
  • Phylogeny
  • Tandem Repeat Sequences / genetics
  • White People / classification
  • White People / ethnology*
  • White People / genetics*